19 September 2006

'Fooled by Randomness'

From Fooled by Randomness, by Nassim Taleb (page 38):

[I]t is … a scientific fact, and a shocking one, that both risk detection and risk avoidance are not mediated in the ‘thinking’ part of the brain but largely in the emotional one…. The consequences are not trivial: It means that rational thinking has little, very little, to do with risk avoidance. Much of what rational thinking seems to do is rationalize one’s actions by fitting some logic to them. In that sense the description coming from journalism is certainly not just an unrealistic representation of the world but rather the one that can fool you the most by grabbing your attention via your emotional apparatus….

Exactly right; and since policymaking is very much driven by media reporting, it’s a crucial point. The media are focused on the short term, on the visual and on the emotions. What gets lost are the crises that are long term, not telegenic, nor creating an immediate emotional impact. A Social Policy Bond regime, by stipulating outcomes, would help avoid such biases, by making them explicit. So, for instance, a policy that aimed to raise longevity (however defined) would have to be impartial as to causes of early death. A bond regime would not, as current policy appears to be doing, target such emotional but statistically marginal causes of death as terrorism, at the expense of road deaths.


Anonymous said...

Hi Ronnie,

just checking whether everything is O.K. with you.

Frank & Gabi

Ronnie Horesh said...

Hi and thanks for your concern. All is fine with me thanks; I will do a post about my not very remarkable experiences here in Bangkok. R

Jimmy Jangles said...

Can this explain why women get scared by spiders ?

Ronnie Horesh said...

Jimmy! I'm into outcomes, not explanations, activities, inputs, outputs. You could or course issue bonds against anything you like, including female arachnophobia. Explanations are less important than defining a targeted outcome. Indeed, looking for explanations can distract us from seeking solutions.