Sunday, March 15, 2009

The Black Swan: the first twelve pages

Wow.  This book is incredible.  A lot of the topics that I have scratched the surface of, and had a hint of a thought about, this man has delved deeply into.  He is Varsity, I am on the freshman team.  It is really impressing me with the depth of his thought and his search into the causality of cognitive biases and also his historical research into the subject.  He can discuss and quote Arabic philosophers from the 1100s, Euro philosophers from the 1600s, and modern philosophers and economists, all concerning the problem of induction and knowledge of knowledge, or more simply, epistemology.  

Ok, now that I got that out of the way, how does it relate to sports betting?  

One key concept is platonicity, named after the philosopher Plato.  Plato was known to construct utopias, or Ideal governments and concepts.  This is supposed to be held up as the gold standard and the ideal to which all others are compared.  Humans tend to Platonify many concepts and situations.  It helps us deal with life and make decisions.  If we didn't Platonify, we would be mired in the gritty details of even the most minute decision.  

He refers to Umberto Eco and his library which allegedly contains 30,000 books.  A personal library is supposed to be a research tool.  And a library consisting solely of read books does not provide much possibility for research.  Most of his books are unread and thus provide their value because when he needs to find information he can go get it.  He also uses that example to highlight that humans focus on what we know, rather than what we don't know.  Very interesting.

He wrote that the human mind suffers from the "triplet of opacity" when it encounters history.  These are the illusion of understanding (people think they know what is going on in a world that is increasingly random), the retrospective distortion (we can only view events after the fact, and the accounts are over-simplified), overvaluation of factual information (people who know a lot tend to be overly confident and authoritative).  

The human mind is a great explainer, capable of finding meaning and patterns where none exist.  It is a great evolutionary tool for detecting the migration of birds, seasonal changes, patterns in waterfall, hunting, etc.  It is no so great when dealing with modern day life, where randomness has a large effect.  That is a really good thought!!!  Basically, our brains evolved to succeed in a slow-paced, more deterministic world.  Now we operate in an environment ruled by people and our whimsical, group-think choices that are not subject to the same rules.  Yet we still are stuck with the same equipment.  

Funes, the memorious.  He talks about someone who has a perfect memory.  Interesting.  

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