logical fallacy fallacies follies

January 15, 2015
Reading "Thinking Fast and Slow", and it's pretty good but I am annoyed at the triumphalism over the conjunction fallacy... the favorite example being:
Linda is 31 years old, single, outspoken, and very bright. She majored in philosophy. As a student, she was deeply concerned with issues of discrimination and social justice, and also participated in anti-nuclear demonstrations.

Which is more probable?

Linda is a bank teller.
Linda is a bank teller and is active in the feminist movement.
So by Venn diagram logic the former is "more probable" since it's a superset of the latter, but most people will say the second is more likely. The trouble is most people read in an implicit "and is not active in the feminist movement" after the first. (Or, more cynically, "is just a normal person"). So it IS revealing about our psychology, but more more so in terms of how actual humans tell stories about other humans vs how folks in the lab try to lay things out. It's sort of like how casinos and lotteries are artificial environments constructed outside the rules of the overwhelming bulk of the rest of our experience. And these chapters of the book are full of this self-congratulatory, look how broken we found people's analysis is. (And *sometimes* that breakage significant, but again, it says more about how we can be misled by the setup of stories. I think the chapters on "priming" are much scarier and prone to exploitation.)

They follow up with this example of a bunch of dishware: Set A has like 8 good plates, 8 good bowls, 8 good dessert plates, 6 good cups and 2 broken ones, 1 good saucer and 7 broken ones. Set B just has 8 good plates, 8 good bowls, 8 good dessert plates. From the researchers point of view, OF COURSE Set A has more value, since unbroken dishes can only add value, not subtract. To anyone who has ever bought dishware at a garage sale, however... you know that the condition of some of the stuff tells a story about how the set as a whole has been treated.

The book ends chapters by expressing phrases of how they'd like to enhance people's ability to recognize fallacies etc, and they say how like "adding a cheap little gift to the whole package actually decreased the perceived value of the whole thing, in this case less would have been more". And THAT is a reasonable takeaway in a world that never gets away from imperfect information. And imperfect and asymmetric information is so often ignored in the setup of these clinical-ish problems that assume the God's Eye View of everything in the stories.

It's so much "First, Assume a Spherical Cow" style thinking. Yes, there are valuable things to be learned with that, but no, you can't get to the finish line with it.
On the one hand, maybe Obama shoulda been there, gesture-wise. On the other hand it was a big photo op, not a legitimate bit of international leadership. On the other other hand, what a security nightmare to have tried to do for reals.
Interesting - this Swedish "yes" vocalization (kind of a sip-py inhale) was my personal word for "juice" when I was a baby. A tongue click was my word for chocolate-- clearly I had my bases covered.
Man. Nothing has made me feel more like a toddler in a toy store than this article on new-ish features on CPUs in a while. Most coders have NO IDEA what's going on in them there chips, myself included.
Crap, false positives on Gmail's spam filters, from folks I'd corresponded with before. Worrisome.
GEEKNESS Wrapping my head around Grails. Wish the principle of DRY (dont repeat yourself) was matched by DASMS (dont assume so much sh...tuff. Shtuff.)

Seriously sometimes I think the balance between "conciseness" and "I actually feel I understand what is going on" is way the hell out of wack.