Fallacies, Illusions, and Biases (Part 1)

I’m working my way through Rolf Dobelli’s The Art of Thinking Clearly by reading a few sections each morning. Here are my notes on the first 11 sections (Confirmation Bias had two sections, which I’ve only noted as one below):

  1. Survivorship bias: You overestimate your probability of success because you only see success stories. You find common threads in success stories and think they are the answer. Both ignore the failures because those stories aren’t told. When you are a survivor you think, “I did it! Everyone else can!” Look for counter examples and failures to overcome it.
  2. Swimmer’s body illusion: Swimmers usually choose swimming because they have good physiques. Swimming doesn’t necessarily cause good physiques. Harvard has a rigorous vetting process and skilled, driven people tend to get in. They’d likely be successful without Harvard. This may actually be a subset of the survivorship bias. (You don’t see ugly models selling makeup or fat swimmers because they don’t tend to last long in the business. Dumb people don’t make it though Harvard’s screening, so won’t bring down their salary numbers after 4 years.)
  3. Clustering illusion: Our brains are pattern and meaning recognizing machines. First regard patterns as pure chance. If there seems to be more, test it statistically.
  4. Social Proof: We are hardwired to copy the reactions of others. In the past it was beneficial for survival. Remember to look for links. Popular does not equal best on objective measures. “If 50M people say something foolish, it is still foolish.”
  5. Sunk Cost Fallacy: Investments of time or money to date don’t matter. Only future benefits or costs count.
  6. Reciprocity: The allure of both positive and negative reciprocity is so strong that it is best to avoid saying yes in the first place if it is something you don’t want.
  7. Confirmation bias: The tendency to interpret new information so it becomes compatible with your existing beliefs. We filter out disconfirming evidence. Look for disconfirming evidence and give it serious consideration. “Murder your darlings.”
  8. Authority bias: When making decisions, think about which authority figures are influencing your reasoning. Challenge them.
  9. Contrast Effect: Things seem cheaper, prettier, healthier, better, etc in contrast to something else. This is how magicians and con men remove your watch: Press hard in one area so you don’t feel the lighter touch of removing your watch. This is also why it is easy to ignore inflation. Compare things in individual cost/benefit calculations, not in contrast to an “original price” or what they are framed against.
  10. Availability bias: We create a picture of the world using the examples that most easily come to mind. This creates an incorrect risk map in our heads. We attach too much likelihood to flashy outcomes. We think dramatically, not quantitatively. We tend to focus on what is in front of us, whether or not it is the most important question. We can overcome it by getting others’ input with different experiences and expertise.

Notes on how React and Angular work

I got this question from a Praxis participant last night: “Hey Chuck quick general question: do frameworks like angular and react compile to JS? How exactly do they work?”

Here is my response:

This took me a little research because I didn’t quite know. Here is what I found: First, React is a library and Angular is a framework. Seems like a small distinction, but it has big consequences. See this link: https://stackoverflow.com/questions/148747/what-is-the-difference-between-a-framework-and-a-library

If you write React in plain javascript, everything should run as-is. If you write your React code in JSX, babel first finds the JSX, parses and generates the corresponding javascript code, then evaluates it. The big-picture of React is that it is kind of like the view layer in MVC, with a few more bells and whistles added. Everything renders to a virtual DOM first, which is significantly faster than the real DOM. Changes are then compared with the real DOM and then the differences are sent to the real DOM.

It looks like you can write Angular code in javascript or Typescript (which then compiles to javascript). Here is a great high-level architecture overview of Angular that explains how it works: https://angular.io/guide/architecture

Taking Control of Our Attention

Recommendation: What Is Technology Doing To Us? Tristan Harris on Sam Harris’s podcast 

Tristan is a former Design Ethicist at Google and studied at Stanford’s Persuasive Technology Lab. His work highlights the design patterns in technology that grab our attention, pull us back in, and addict us. These designs are not only manipulating us, but they are making us unhappy.

Learn what these patterns are so you can recognize them and take back control.

I’m getting increasingly interested in this topic. Taking a long break from social media, turning off almost all phone notifications, and deleting all addictive apps from my phone has had a positive impact on my reading & thinking time. Breaking the typical pattern of waking up and surfing social media before getting moving for the day has made my mornings better, too.

Two related topics I’m interested in pursuing:

  1. Decreasing my cognitive load. Getting things off my mind so I can focus on what matters.
  2. Making myself less susceptible to advertising.

If you have any books, articles, or podcasts I should check out on these topics, let me know!

 

On Jury Duty

I’m very torn on jury duty. I despise politics, I don’t vote, I rarely follow the news, and I think that most laws should be nullified. I’d prefer to be rid of the whole business.

On the other hand, I deeply believe in justice and want reasonable, thoughtful people on juries.

I’ve so far avoided jury duty by being out of state at college when I was summoned. My plan if I ever got called again was to say some radical thing in order to get kicked out of the selection pool. That is no longer my plan. Now I think that I have an obligation to be the thoughtful, reasonable juror that I’d want if I were on trial.

Building a Wide Base of Knowledge

Someone I’m advising asked me this morning how to build a wide base of knowledge across many subjects and disciplines. Here was my answer:

The short answer is that you need to be curious. Specifically:

  1. Read widely.
  2. Ask people what they are working on and dig in to understand. Ask lots of questions. Spend lots of time listening.
  3. Work on your memory. If your memory isn't that great, take lots of searchable notes.
  4. Build good relationships with people who you can ask about things.
  5. Build up mental models: Conceptual understandings of how things are structured and work.