There have been many incidents, of late (splashed across the spaces that are perturbed by news people, mainly for the sake of keeping turmoil to the maximum), that bring to the fore the fact that people process, cognitively and under the stress of handling potentially overwhelming input (senses and more), their load (from multitudinous sources) using pre-suppositions that are based upon several things: prior experience, what they've learned (redundancy, I know), superposition by a stronger mind (if you would, the influence of dominating (overbearing) persons (many types here that we'll get into eventually), and a whole lot more.
That is (and, one can argue the issue all sorts of ways), how people go through their daily lives deals a lot with what can be called "biases" (please, drop the pejorative notions (reactions, except, also be aware of your own biases), for a bit, okay?) which are helpers as much as hinder'ers.
So, let's accept that fact and spend some time looking at how this little trick helps us daily (as in, understanding the usefulness and how best to not let it carry us away).
By the way, the most prominent bias on the planet resides in the minds of the highly educated (we'll get there, too; however, if you look at posts in this, and the related, blogs, you'll see plenty of references to this). And, also, those types are the worse in pointing fingers at the biases of others.
Aside: please note that I said educated, and not smart (yes, the ability to ace tests is not as strongly advanced as many seem to want to think). Of course, autodidactism will be a key issue to look at.
The insidious part of those educated types is that everyone else suffers the consequences of their actions. Some little poor person's sphere of influence is much smaller (thereby, more amenable the scrutiny of more minds -- those who shield themselves behind chimeras make use of this dynamic (we'll get there, too).
Aside: if you look at the economy, and what might be called criminal activity thereof, mostly, bad behavior dealing with smaller amounts are slapped harder than those considered too big to fail (entrappers). We just saw that, up close and personal (still a problem despite the bullish aspect of the chimera's playground). Same goes for biases. Some pre-supposition that is wrapped with silly, abstracted jargon is as much a bias as is a knee-jerk reaction.
Now, in the context of IJCAI (International Joint Conference on Artificial Intelligence), there was a talk titled: Why biased minds make better inferences. In other words, being of a homo heuristicus variety is part of our nature. Also, notice that the talk uses an example related to actually doing something (as opposed to what we see in DC now, with the poloticos, who have themselves wrapped so much in their biases that they are essentially ineffectual).
Aside: as opposed to algos. But, this talk is only one of many things to discuss, so don't get hung up on arguing about this one speech. However, notice that the talk does touch upon some modern techniques (about which we have made allusions) being done by those who need to acquire some familiarity with (even respect for) the issues of quasi-empiricism.
This topic was mentioned in an earlier post, about Baruch. But, it needs to be more prominently seen as an important part of what truth engineering is all about. There is a lot of work to do here.
But, for now, the message is for you to exalt in your biases. Embrace them. Thank them for helping you to make it through the day. And, know that progress along the scale of human advancement (I know, all sorts of arguable points here) does not entail that you lose your biases; rather, tuning them is what we need to learn how to do.
Aside: we want to mention Bayes, and his work. Even with this data-driven process, we can have biases (expectation being of essence). Thomas must be rolling over in his grave to see all of the misuse of his ideas that are the basis for the work (actually, raking in the money) of Zuck, and the like. But, we'll get to that to boot, as money and biases go hand in hand.
We'll have to pick up several threads that were left dangling (our Basis, for example).
Also, just as biases can be good, we also know that there is a down side. Unfortunately, it's that latter that gets the attention. How our biases ought to be managed (by ourselves, okay) deals very much with truth and its wonders.
12/31/2013 -- A popular post.