•July 16, 2012 • 1 Comment

•July 16, 2012 • Leave a Comment

Biases

•April 8, 2010 • Leave a Comment

To begin, biases scare the shit out of me.

It’s scary to think that humans aren’t rational agents. It’s scary to think that humans aren’t rational agents even when they are trying to be rational. But what I think is scariest is that people have cognitive biases they don’t even know about!

I make it my goal to learn about the mental shortcuts we humans tend to take. For example, people tend to believe that sources of information that agree with their internal views are more factual.

Humans also tend to take shortcuts in observation and perception. My favorite example is something that more economists should consider. Humans are risk-averse when it comes to gains and risk-seeking when it comes to loses. Let me demonstrate.
You have a choice between a 100% chance of getting 50$ or a 50% chance of getting a 100$ and a 50% of getting nothing. Most humans choose the guaranteed 50$ because it’s a safe bet.
Now we have the same situation again but this time you have a choice between a 100% chance of loosing 50$ (read: you have to give up the money) or a 50% of loosing 100$ and a 50% of having to loose nothing. Most humans end up choosing the second option.
Why? Because you are likely to take risks when there’s a possibility of losses and avoid risks when it comes to gains. It’s all part of prospect theory and it’s really fascinating stuff.

We also have a tendency to be really awful at math. Estimating probabilities in our modern world is something we weren’t designed for. Anecdotes tend to cause people to up their estimates of the likelihood of an event occurring. How many people are terrified of strangers sexually abusing children when only 10% of child abusers can be considered “strangers” from the point of view of the abusee? source

I guess it’s a good thing that I’m afraid of biases, at least it helps me keep an eye out for them. It’s not a perfect solution, but it will tide me over until our perfect robot overlords arrive.

apocalypse now-ish

•February 24, 2010 • Leave a Comment

And now, for what you’ve all been waiting for! The rabid angry fan boy rant from Cooney Some Random Guy! So here I sit with Wes Mark-Anthony III, watching post apocalyptic films and rating and making reviews. We found the list here: http://www.pamedia.com/phpNuke/modules.php?name=Bibliography under the movies section. I am writing reviews for it which you can also find there. The post apocalypse genre of movies has always been popular with small media types, which means that in the 80’s people went nuts making stupid budget films. Where is the modern budget film industry? If it is truly dead then I will rejoice, very few of these appear to be worth the time it takes to watch them.

This is Cooney A Famous Anonymous Personage, signing off.

Never delete your old music

•February 16, 2010 • Leave a Comment

It is true that I haven’t been on our planet for very long, however I have accumulated many memories. It always surprises me how often I can go about my life without taking the tie to remember these moment that have sculpted me into the person I am.

The other day I found some of my old mix Cd’s (wow Cd’s are so passé) and snippets of my past began to flood my mind. High school, pre-teen and young me definitely had weird taste in music. I can feel my angst through the heavy beats in most of the songs from high school. The lyrics express feelings I must have felt before, but barely remember. It bring back  memories of my hair being in my face and only wearing one ear bud.  Before that all my songs are very happy and whimsical. There are short lyrics with an upbeat tempo. Everything that reminds of what it was like to be ten and care free. The most I ever seemed to have to worry about was having fun with friends.

So here’s my advice to you, whoever you are keep it. Listen to it. You will be happier.

An important difference between guys and girls

•January 16, 2010 • 1 Comment

So, there is a very important difference between guys and girls (apart from the obviously different plumbing ) and it has to do with our ability to perceive members of our respective sexes.

If you ask a girl if she thinks another girl is good looking, odds are she will be able to answer. Odds are also good that if you are a guy you will agree with her opinion. What I’m saying is that girls know how to identify the popular notion of beauty in members of their own sex.

Guys can’t. Maybe I’m being a little general (ok maybe a lot) but from my own experience I am completely unable to tell if some guy going to be considered attractive.

I wonder why that is. Maybe it’s because society has a more cookie cutter notion of attractiveness for girls and less so for guys. What do you think?

Citizen Journalism: Good or bad?

•January 13, 2010 • Leave a Comment

Journalism has changed is the past few years. Since the arrival of the internet, people who aren’t trained in the art of reporting have been commenting and posting their opinions on the different stories that are happening around the world. Jay Rosen from “Press Thinks: Ghost of Democracy in the media machine” defines it as: “When the people formerly known as the audience employ the press tools they have in their possession to inform one another”. This allows everyone to be able to write about whatever they feel like. This creates a lot of clutter and blurs the definition of journalism, but it also offers people a place to express their opinion.

            The problems with this kind of reporting are that everyone and anyone can post a picture of a video taken from a cell phone or a camera. This can lead to many different interpretations of a certain event. To come to a good conclusion, all the information needs to be gathered such as the time, place, and reasons for the picture. It has always been said that a picture tells a thousands words but the question is which words. The internet is filled with very opinionated people who will add their spin on anything. This is normal. People will always be bias towards a certain subject because of past experiences.

            The other problem with citizen reporting is the amount of articles that are being published. It is hard to get your message across when there are thousands and millions of people who are also blogging or reporting about whatever they want. It is like the saying small fish in a big pond.  This means that big newspaper company and other internet media corporations who take the care in verifying their sources are having a hard time getting the funding to keep the websites up. This leads to many journalists loosing their jobs.

            However it is important to realize that it is just clutter and a lot of positive aspects have arisen from this method of reporting. The people who are experiencing catastrophes and world crisis are able to give people information in real time. Information is harder to censor because anyone can be blogging about anything they want. An example is the protester and the people experiencing the protests in Iran are blogging about their experiences. When the government tried to shut down the reporters on twitter, users around the world stood up in protest. Thousands of people changes their location on twitter to Iran, it order to create a needle in a hay stack effect for the censoring military. Citizen Journalism gives every day people power. We can get people around the world to take action in a cause that we are ready to fight for. Subjects that aren’t visually appealing enough for the 6 o’clock local news or the national news at ten, now have a chance to flourish of the internet. Things that happen everyday and don’t seem shocking now have a place where everyone can learn about them and discuss them.

            In sum, citizen journalism is creating clutter but it lets the people around the world learn about what is important for the general population.