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Decision making under probability

An interesting notion arose from this Hacker News comment thread about the life and legacy of John von Neumann – specifically the contrast between decision making under certainty (i.e. hindsight) vs decision making under probability. The topic in question was pre-emptive war with the Soviet Union in the late 1940s and early 1950s. After thinking about it for a while I came to the horrible realization that it wasn’t the worst idea in the world. bit actually something of a close call.

I’m left being even more grateful for the presidency of Dwight Eisenhower. The 20th century was a scary time.

The 12th SSC Atlanta meetup

Last Week, Oct 12th, we met for the 12th time at Hodge Podge Coffee House in Atlanta.

The meeting was notable by the addition of lots and lots of new people (thank you SSC mention) – and a very long conversation – which ended with us getting kicked out after four hours (there was another event about to happen in our area).

Topics included

  • China – a long discussion of the current state of china and what is likely to happen to minorities and minority opinion (all bad things)
  • Obligations of corporations – where does silence equal consent/sanction, and what not
  • The Universal Basic Income – without Nathan to defend the notion we reached a negative opinion rather quickly
  • Wage subsidies in general (mixed opinions on this)
  • Health care
  • Voting – obligations to, group participation rites, etc. It sparked some interesting thoughts in me after the meeting on what people get out of voting – more or less and affirmation of self – I need to flesh that out more
  • Addition – specifically the Never Enough book by Judith Grisel – I need to reread the chapter on MDMA – there were several questions on how the recent psychiatric treatments work, or don’t work as the case may be

It was quite a good meeting – with lots of new people, including many who were not directly in the software field, which is sort of rare for us.

Well phrased – from the left on Social Media

From this article in a leftist journal against Andrew Yang and the UBI

Online has become an opiate of the lumpen. Similar to weed or alcohol, it is a harmless social pastime for the thriving and robust. For the miserable and economically insecure, however, the internet becomes a pathological social blight, a symptom of initial misery than swells to compound and exacerbate the cycle of antisocial disaffection. (If you don’t believe me, watch them doing literally everything they possibly can to self-sabotage getting laid over Tinder.)

It’s similar to Tyler Cowen’s thoughts on alcohol and guns – i.e. the high functioning can handle them very well – it’s the bottom 2% (probably higher with alcohol) that cause all of the problem.

  It’s worth reading throughout – particularly that the UBI is way the poor being “paid off and discarded”. That has more of an emotional resonance with me than I think is merited by the logic of the plan.

Random thoughts on scientism and economics

I enjoy the Econtalk podcast, and one of the concepts I’ve taken away from it is the notion of scientism – defined as the notion that whatever science is available about a topic explains the topic.

Some things are inherently difficult to study, like economics or medicine (complex systems) compared to traditional scientific topics like chemistry or metallurgy. It is harder to design studies to measure the impact of a minimum wage increase than it is to measure the impact of 55% humidity increase on exposed copper.

Seemingly our understanding increases in it’s certainty with the more complex the system.

At what point are you safer using a priori logic to make decisions than evidence? How many studies do you need to model complex behavior?