Tag Archives: Taleb

#48 On Groups

I realised after I sent the letter that I might have been wrong to say you dismissed it because it was Jesus. What I meant to say is that you dismiss it because it comes from a religion. Ex Schola would have been the better phrase to use, but because it’s less pretentious it’s less fun to say in a letter.

It’s absolute madness that fundamentalists think The Bible is perfect. And the exact opposite to this, which is to think it’s perfectly and absolutely flawed, is also madness. If you had never heard Continue reading #48 On Groups

#22 On knowing what’s best

Most new conjectures are wrong. Yes good. Most old conjectures are wrong. Also fine. This is because new and old are pretty much unbiased subsets of conjectures in general. However the set of ideas in active use are a biased, selected set. Imperfectly selected yes, and quite slow, yes. And can cause a lot of misery, sure. But implemented laws are a selected set and so have a higher percentage of true ideas than the set of new and the set of old.

There’s a lovely power law at work here, a kind of self-similar Sturgeon’s law. Most governments are Continue reading #22 On knowing what’s best

#21 On ancestor worship

Dear Mat,

I disagree with your conjecture.

Most new conjectures are wrong. That’s definitely right. But I disagree that the inverse holds: that therefore more old ideas are right. I think there are selection biases that you’re overlooking that are present in social and political domains that aren’t as relevant in science. Deutsch’s ideas about conjecturing apply across the board but scientific institutions are better tuned for this than political ones. In science the old ideas that are held onto, provisionally, are rightly favoured because they’re likely to be erring towards truth because they faced strong tests when they were adopted; new conjectures are more likely to be off the mark but you keep throwing stuff up and eventually you land on an improvement.

In politics there is way more inertia, way more bias towards conservatism and fewer norms for accepting new theories when they hold up to evidence. In politics a new, true idea may well have absolutely no chance of ever being accepted, merely because it conflicts with people’s intuitions, cognitive biases, animal spirits, tribalisms, etc. Continue reading #21 On ancestor worship

La fiasco!

The conviction of the six Italian scientists in October 2012 raised the hackles of scientists and rationalists everywhere, fearing a repeat of the trial of Galileo. As the facts of the case were translated into English for the world’s press to laugh at, we learned that the case was not just a matter of the judiciary bowing to the pathos of the grieving families and delivering a sentence that sounds like something out of a reverse witch trial: the scientists will be imprisoned for not being able to predict the future. Continue reading La fiasco!