Ain’t that the truth…

This comic should be mandatory reading for every dipshit giving life advice on twitter.

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Survivorship bias is the logical error of concentrating on the people or things that made it past some selection process and overlooking those that did not, typically because of their lack of visibility. This can lead to false conclusions in several different ways. It is a form of selection bias.

 

Batesian Mimicry

Batesian Mimicry, Noun, mimicry in which an edible animal is protected by its resemblance to one avoided by predators. Named after Henry W. Bates (1825–92), the English naturalist who first described it.

The easiest example of Batesian Mimicry is usually the comparison between the Coral snake and the Mexican Milk snake.

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One is completely harmless, the other has venom second in virulence only to that of the black mamba. Which one is which?

The Milk snake knows its a pretender. The Coral snake knows that it is the real deal. The expert knows the difference. But to the layman… it could be either or. So we are more than likely to err on the side of caution.

If Red Touches Yellow it will kill a fellow
If Red touch Black, venom is lacks

Now you know.

Only humans also practice Batesian Mimicry. Every… single… day. For example when we exhibit expertise. Or rather when we pretend to exhibit expertise.

A group of guys are clustered round the barbecue, beers in hand, talking sport, eighties action heroes versus the modern day dearth of these exemplars, the merits of queens pawn openings… you know the usual. Casually the conversation shifts from goodnatured banter into serious murk and ego. Suddenly someone is espousing their foolproof stock picking or real estate scheme. Theres ALWAYS that one guy. The guys who’s side hustle is trading or flipping houses, who talks a big game. Now if there was a real Coral snake in the group that wouldn’t happen… The real stock broker or real estate tycoon would put that person down or more likely just intimidate that person into keeping quiet. But if there isn’t that person… how would we know if this guy was for real?

I used to see a form of Batesian Mimicry almost every day at the MMA gym where I was an instructor. And then later on when I went on to become a CQC instructor*. Guys would come into the gym for the beginners class and talk smack. How many street fights/bar brawls they’d been in, how many opponents, how they’d prevailed (often heroically without a scratch). You’d start to imagine you were in the company of some exceptionally scary individuals.

*in many respects the police guys were even worse than those other blaggards. There I was… six guys behind hard cover with AKs and me with only my 9mm’ I paraphrase… but that was the gist of it

The two hour class was split, forty minutes of stand up and clinch followed by sparring. Usually boxing. Those guys that talked big before class would often do okay against other beginners (milk snakes) but when they went up against a coral snake, they would wilt and fade. Often they didn’t make it to the second part of the class which was grappling… and if they did, they usually didn’t come back. I’m pretty sure this happens in MMA, Muay Thai and boxing gyms around the world. Those that talk, the talk, can rarely, if ever, walk it.

I think this is made even worse these days by social media, and being able to present or project any idea of self you want to. Post some unverifiable claims. Edit some video. Fake it, until you make it.

The problems comes in when you are seeking guidance, advice or mentorship. None of us are experts at everything… and usually the area’s we seek to improve are area’s in which we ourselves are deficient.

For example. I know very little about cars. I am reliant on my mechanic to tell me what the problem is. He’s throwing a lot of jargon at me. Something about having to replace the catalytic convertor. I smile tightly… and nod my head, in a fashion I hope signals some sort of consideration on my part. But really, I have NO idea what he’s been on about for the last five minutes. Is he a milk snake or a coral snake?

In the end I decide to trust him. Mostly because he has a great big red Viking beard and I’ve been using him for years. He sends me videos of Melodic German Death Metal bands. We bumped into each other at a Rammstein concert once… which basically (I think) means we are related now.

In any event. Almost no one is what they appear to be. (I also like Miles Davis and Vivaldi) We have been conditioned that asking for proof is rude and that we should give people the benefit of the doubt.

I call bullshit on all of that.

For example, if I’m going to pay someone to give me financial advice…. I want to see their personal portfolio. Preferably a verified copy of their dashboard. If you are not willing to do that… fucked if I’m giving you a dime buddy. If that were the normal operating procedure… theres one industry that would disappear in an instant. Same goes for stock pickers and real estate guys*. Bring me a list of every trade you’ve ever done. If you’re above average, we can talk… if you’re exceptional then I will listen, but until then why don’t you have a..

nice warm cup of shut the fuck up.

*or any industry really.

I’m just saying be skeptical. Even of this blog and the thoughts and musings contained within. The author has almost no expertise in anything. Except perhaps in creating navel lint. If only we could harness that power for good…

An open mind…

The trouble with having an open mind, of course, is that people will insist on coming along and trying to put things in it – Terry Pratchett

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MJ. That rare intersectionality where you can combine your favorite author with your favorite comic book.

I often decide that since it is in my mind, I must have put it there. Instead of challenging the concept that most of my most hardcore beliefs were actually placed there by someone else. I just entrenched and calcified those ideas. I’m am likely quite a porous individual, absorbing things willy-nilly like some sort of organic, meat-sack sponge.

That’s not to say I don’t have original thoughts. Well… I’m assuming some of them must be original… right? I’d love to see that version of me that evolved as a blank slate free from outside stimuli. What sort of person would that be, what would he have come up with…

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Would I be more Jack? Or more Ralph.

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Probably Ralph. Wiggum I mean.

The Burning Building

A trolley problem is usually defined as a thought experiment in ethics. Although it doesn’t necessarily have to involve a trolley car. Theres also not supposed to be a particularly right or a particularly wrong answer.

Scenario #1

A building is on fire, there is a child on the second floor. Without thinking you rush into the inferno firmly intent on rescuing the child. Half way up the stairs you notice a priceless Rembrandt hanging on the wall. Do you can carry on, rescue the child or… do you save the irreplaceable masterpiece?

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Scenario #2

A building is on fire, there are two children in the building.Without thinking you rush into the inferno firmly intent on rescuing the children. Half way up the stairs you realise the fire is out of control and you will only be able to rescue one child… armed with perfect knowledge you know that one child has an IQ of 140. The other sub 80. Which child do you save?

Scenario #3

A building is on fire, there are two children in the building.Without thinking you rush into the inferno firmly intent on rescuing the children. Half way up the stairs you realise the fire is out of control and you will only be able to rescue one child… armed with perfect knowledge you know that one child will one day cure cancer. The other child is your best friends kid. Which child do you save?

It doesn’t really matter what you answer. Unless you’re a sociopath its likely you are likely to be bothered by whatever choice you make….

I can’t overstate how much I love trolley problems. I’m especially fascinated by programmers who are going to have to teach self-driving cars the algorithms required to make life or death decisions. Does your self-driving car sacrifice you by smashing itself into a brick wall… or does it mow down the child that broke free from its mothers grasp and ran into the road?

Decisions, decisions… decided in 0.05 seconds.

What a great time to be alive that we can mull over such things 🙂

 

If you’re interested… my post on the  The Shallow Pond. For more ethical hoodoo.