Monday, May 25, 2020

On a book finishing break

Sorry for the silence for the last few weeks. Most of my efforts have gone to finishing my first book in English. I am hopeful it will be finished before the end of July. This book has a similar content compared to this blog. It will be clearer and written better.  

I am not ready to announce the title of the book. But I am pretty sure that its subtitle is close to: "The latticework of general mental models."

I will tell you more about it as fast as possible.


-TT

Tuesday, April 28, 2020

Status quo

Inertia has two distinct parts. The first is that objects in motion will continue their motion toward the same unless there is a force that changes the motion. The second one is that objects that are at rest will remain at rest unless they are acted upon a force. The Status quo is about the second part. It is all around us as the first part. People, their bodies, and organizations all want to protect their status quo. Even the people who should be the most rational, scientists, suffer from it. Changing the status quo is hard, but not impossible.

Status quo, bodies, and minds

Your body and mind both have a tendency to preserve the status quo. Your body wants to keep its temperature within a certain range and wants to keep fluids in balance. Status quo helps your body to function in optimal ways and to prepare for any threats that might get in your way. When the temperature rises, your body starts to sweat more in order to keep its temperature within the range. This happens to many other functions and other temperature changes or changes inside your body. Your body is full of balancing feedback loops that focus on keeping its status quo. Otherwise, your body would collapse and the death would occur fast.

Your beliefs and identity have status quo. Your thoughts also depend on it. Your mind keeps producing the same answers to questions day after day. It rarely produces any new thoughts even when they are important or necessary. It is even rarer that your mind destroys your old thoughts about the situations you normally confront.

Science and status quo

You might believe that scientists are the most rational people. You might think that they are willing to get rid of their old assumptions and change their views after you have given them evidence that they were wrong. This rarely happens in real life. For example, it took centuries or even millennia to approve the fact that earth is not the center of the universe. Science is changed by the crazy ones who are willing to endure to prove themselves right when people with old theories abuse them. Scientists are humans and they have egos and psychological biases.

Once scientists have made their conclusions about their research, they will toss out most evidence against their theories. They cannot objectively see their results after they have made their conclusions. They are willing to preserve their status quo at almost any cost. You will not easily find a scientist who is willing to destroy his theories even though the evidence shows them wrong. What you will find are scientists who disapprove of all people who can convince others that they were wrong. These people are the last ones who will change their minds. Their egos cannot handle contrarian evidence. This does not mean that science is bullshit. On the contrary, it means that the process is working. This resistance is part of the due process.

How to beat it

The longer the status quo has worked, the harder it is to break it. And the harder it is, the more effort and wisdom you need to overcome it. Willpower will not get you far. You can use it and beat the status quo for a short time, but eventually, you will succumb back to your previous situation. You have to use your path of least resistance and increase it bit by bit to overcome the status quo in your current environment. You have to start the change with minimal steps. If you increase steps too fast, you will fail. Then, you have to start again, but it will be a bit harder. The effort you have to put to reach the next step will increase. When you use incremental steps long, you can reach the critical mass needed to change and get in a position where the change will happen.

Even though the path least of resistance is key to change the status quo, there are few other ways you can make the change easier. In other words, you can make the resistance smaller. Use your psychological tendencies to weaken the resistance. You can cheat yourself with them to put more effort to overcome the status quo. If you can change your environment to overcome the status quo, do it. You can increase the availability of the triggers that will move you in the right direction. This is easier when the environment has changed. Sometimes the only way you can make the change is to change your environment. This is important especially with addictions.

Until next time!

-TT

PS. Do you consider yourself a helpful person? If you found anything useful in this text, please teach it to your friends.

Tuesday, April 14, 2020

Covid-19 and evolutionary point-of-view

You can think about the Covid-19 pandemic from the evolutionary point of view. You have only one life. There is a path dependence. If you die to this virus, everything else is irrelevant. This applies to all diseases and potentially other lethal events. The only smart thing to do is to minimize your odds of having to suffer from them. People who undermine the possible impact of the virus are, plain and simple, stupid. There are opportunity costs for minimizing the odds, but the opportunity costs of dying are infinite. You have to find balance of avoiding the virus and the other life.

Instead of the survival of the fittest, this pandemic is about the survival of the most adaptable. People who thrived before the pandemic can have great problems in adapting to new conditions if they maximized their output compared to their resources before the pandemic. People who have slack in their lives are in pole position to survive Many lives are disrupted in one way or another. Some people suffer the wrath of the virus and most do not experience big effects. It is safe to say that some people are more adaptable for fighting this virus than others. Even young and healthy individuals have died to it. Nobody knows why it happened to them. From an evolutionary point of view, Covid-19 makes genes of human race more adaptable to current situation in total.

What about the necessary changes in this situation? Can you adapt your rhytms of life to the current situation with the virus? Can you change your schedule in a way that you can minimize the odds of possible contagion of the virus? Can you change your daily rhytms to make the change? Can you use trial and error if you have to go out to exercise or work out at home? Can you go out when others stay at home or do you follow a tight schedule? Can you work or do your chores like buying groceries from home? Can you find a place to live far away from others and grow your own food or cook it yourself? If you have not done these things before, can you reprogram your brains to do them?

Even though survival is the most important thing, you have to think about the financials. This situation brings higher order effects. Some of these effects cause financial distress. Can you adapt your finances to the new situation or new world? This pandemic will have profound effects to the world, nations, companies, and individuals. Some financial rules will probably change. There will be no return to the past. Some nations, companies, and individuals will thrive financially while others will suffer. Many old successful business models will crash and new models will be born. Some industries will change permanently. Best-adapted companies will pay small money for the destroyed businesses that were in ok shape before the pandemic. They can become more successful. Companies and individuals who have cash and small fixed costs in relation to their total costs and income can buy things cheaply.

It is a great time to make changes

Covid-19 pandemic is not all about doom and gloom. It is also a great time to make changes. When your life has changed, it is easier to make other changes too. For example, you can use your time more efficiently because some time wasters have disappeared. You do not have to use so many hours to get to work and back. You can also avoid colleagues who waste your time. You can arrange your work in a way that is not depended on others. It can be easier to develop ways to become more productive in your work without explaining it to others. Or listening them tell you it is a bad idea to do things differently, because it is not the way we do things in here.

This is also a great time to get rid of bad habits or other behavior or develop new ones. Bad habits can disappear if the trigger and the prize do not exist anymore. You are then forced to make changes and reprogram your brain. The paths of least resistance to growth with new behavior can be easier to develop. It can also be harder to reach out to old paths of least resistance because the physical and mental efforts can become too hard. You can also develop a better attitude to crisis when you notice that you can survive this one and thrive after it. Do not be afraid of the future, because it can be better than you think and the odds to make changes are higher today than before the pandemic.

Until next time!

-TT

PS. Do you consider youfself a helpful person? If you found anything useful in this text, please teach it to your friends

Tuesday, March 31, 2020

Critical mass of social contagion and Covid-19

You can understand the Covid-19 pandemic and its impacts better with the latticework of mental models. You can also become better prepared for future pandemics with the latticework. Even though the virus is a biological phenomenon, it spreads through social contagions when the critical mass is achieved. If you understand social contagions better, you can see what needs to be done and how to cope the pandemic better.

Covid-19 as a social contagion

Covid-19 spreads through the population with close human contacts. Like all social contagions, it has three parts. First, there are the significant few. They are people who spread the disease faster than rest of the population. Second, social contagion needs to be sticky in order to spread. Third, it needs the right environment to spread. When all these three parts are in place, the virus soon becomes unstoppable, after the critical mass is achieved, unless you do something. When the critical mass is achieved, the growth accelerates exponentially, until it starts to decelerate. The contagion collapses eventually.

Lets start with the significant few who spread the virus faster than rest of us. What is common with these people is that they have a better possibility to spread the virus. They meet lots of people and they have close contacts or they have close contacts to these people. They can be real estate agents, work in junk food restaurants or work in call centers, etc. They live in dense urban areas or use public transportation to commute to work. They are also people who has to work for a living, are workaholics, or do not care about minor illnesses like flu. The best way to stop or slow the pandemic is to focus on finding the significant few who spread the virus faster. Then you have to limit their odds of spreading the virus which means that you have to stop them to meet anyone.

The second part, the stickiness factor is simple. One reason why covid-19 is so sticky is that many people who spread it do not know they have it. They can spread it without knowing it and it is a problem. This fact is important because they have not tested people who do not have any symptoms. The other reason why it is sticky is explained by the fact that it does not kill people easily or fast. It is not like Sars which killed much more people compared to the number of infections and disappeared fast. Third factor which made it sticky is the length of high odds of spreading. Covid-19 can spread about two weeks from first symptoms. One problem is that we do not know if it can spread even before the first symptoms arrive. I am not a professional. I have no exact data about the disease.

The environment is simple. Covid-19 spreads through social contacts. Urban areas with dense population are ideal places to spread. It is hard to avoid social contacts when you live in a place like them. You cannot avoid all people in dense areas. It also spreads in events and places in which many people gather together closely. These events and places include sports events, weddings, public transportation, etc. These events and places have to be shut down when you want to avoid spreading the virus. All you need is a one person with the virus and it spreads like a wildfire in a dry season.

The faster you can address all these factors and manipulate them, the less the virus spreads. If I am right about the latter, the first wave of the disease decelerates its spread faster in the countries which have focused on the factors than public offices have predicted. Time will tell us whether that is the case. When the contagions are dangerous like the pandemic, it is better to overreact than undermine its effect. If you want to stop the spreading your actions have to be fast and decisive. Therefore, the actions that public feel are not necessary, are actually smart things to do when it comes to social contagions with highly negative effects. And because this pandemic is a power law event, you cannot predict it or its impact to societies.

Next text is about Covid-19 and evolution.

Until then,

-TT

PS. Do you consider yourself as a helpful person? If you found anything useful in this text, teach it to your friends.

Tuesday, March 17, 2020

Power law distributions

Last text was about Mediocristan and Extremistan. Lets forget the former and focus on the latter. Extremistan is a world in which the enormous outcomes are the results of small causes. 80/20 rule is the best known power law distribution. It states that 80 percent of the outcomes come from 20 percent of the causes. This is just one power law distibution and there are uncountable amounts of them. Do not focus on the 80/20 rule when you think about power law distributions. Covid19-epidemic is an extreme example of a power law distribution. Even though it is not sure, it is likely that it started when one person ate some part of an animal he should not have. Millions of people will suffer from the virus.

The good, the bad and the irrelevant

It is not important to only understand that minority of causes or inputs produce majority of effects and outputs. Understanding that majority of causes or inputs produce minority of causes and outputs is equally important. Lets say that your causes and effects have 80/20 distribution. Then 80 percent of your causes and inputs are irrelevant. Their effects and outputs are close to zero. It is safe to say that 20 percent of your causes and inputs have large positive and negative effects and outputs. If your life is good, then your 20 percent has larger positive than negative effects. If your life is bad, the negative effects of that 20 percent are larger.

You do not have to be a rocket scientist to understand you have to enlarge the effects of positive causes and inputs in your life and diminish the negative ones. You can change get rid off some of the irrelevant 80 percent of the causes and inputs. Change them into positives. It is unlikely you can get rid off all the negative causes and inputs. You can find ways to diminish some of the effects and outputs. You can transform some of them into irrelevant ones.

Long-term predictions are not smart in Extremistan

You can make predictions in Extremistan and be right for the short time, but the overall results of predictions are usually negative. As I mentioned in the last text, you need 100 billion fold data points in the 80/20 world compared to the normal distribution world. When the power law distibution is 50/1, you cannot have enough data points or computing power to make any useful predictions. Financial markets and economies are parts of extremistan. Therefore, any economist, financial pundit, or someone else who believes they can make exact predictions are idiots. Their total effect on the economy is negative. The funny thing is that they believe their predictive models are based on solid math. In short, do not believe anyone who believe they can make any useful long-term predictions in any social interactions. The world today is not predictable.

When predicting is not possible, you have to prepare for everything. How to do it is a whole another ball game. One way to deal with it is to reduce tight interactions. Do not use all your resources to achieve something like putting all of your time or other resources like money into one endeavor. Be less leveraged than you can. Have smaller debts than you can take. Be more independent. Rely less on other people and their resources. Have many income streams. Then you rely less on a single one.

Start making small experiments. Make small and numerous adjustments into your inputs. See what happens. There are lots of examples of what you can do. Make small changes in your marketing materials when you can do them in a cost-efficient way. Change few words or colors, etc. Make small adjustments to your daily habits like your eating. See what happens if you diminish the availability of bad nutrition and increase the availability good one. Put some of your sweets (if you have them at home or at work) into somewhere you cannot see them without increased effort in finding them.

Do you consider yourself a helpful person? If you found anything useful in this text, teach it to your friends.

Until next time,

-TT

Tuesday, March 3, 2020

Mediocristan and Extremistan

There are two statistical worlds in which we live. Nassim Taleb has described them with names Mediocristan and Extremistan. The first world is a normal distribution world and the second world has extreme distributions. In mediocristan, two persons that have a combined length of 4.00 meters are close to each other. For example, they have 2.01meters and 1.99 meters in length. In extremistan, there are two persons whose combined wealth is 10 million. It is most likely that one of them has wealth close to that 10 million and the other has wealth about 100,000. As you can see, these world are totally different from each other. In other words, one figure does not change statistics much in Mediocristan, but one figure can change everything in Extremistan.

Mediocristan

Mediocristan is the world where majority of the people think we live in. This applies even to majority of the most educated persons. Success equals effort and skills in this world. Mediocristan applies to most biological effects on humans. Genes work in ways that produce mostly results that can be found the normal distribution. The results that genes produce have high predictabilitity. You can define probabilities to them and they do not change much. Here are some percentages how much some biological or psychological attributes of humans are explained by the genes they inherit:

  • Height 70%, Weight 80%
  • Reading disability 60%, Verbal ability 60%
  • Face remembrance 60%, Spacial ability 70%
  • General intelligence 50 %, Personality 40%

As you likely know, your biological parents´s genes have an effect on your biological and psychological traits. If they have some extreme traits, it is likely that these traits are not so extreme in you. In a world with normal distributions, return to averages happen fast. If you have a height of 2.10 meters, your son´s height will likely be closer to average.

Extremistan

Extremistan is the place where minority of the people think we live in. Extremistan applies to most social effects on humans. Success is non-linear with effort in this world. Social contagions produce results that produce extreme distributions. Most of them are from Extremistan. Some social attributes that are from Extremistan are book sales per author, wealth and sizes of companies. There is no predictability in Extremistan. It is almost impossible to predict extreme statistical distributions like changes in stock prices. Even figuring out the mean of a simple 80/20 Pareto distibution requires a sample size of hundred billion fold compared to normal distribution according to Taleb. Changes in stock prices have much larger extreme distribution. Therefore, they cannot be predicted in any modern computers or human brains. This means is that it is much easier to prove that someone is wrong than what the reality is.Today´s world suffers from the domination of high-effect, low-probability events. Most scientific breakthroughs happen when they are not expected, instead of deadlines put to researchers.

Events and effects that combine both worlds

There are some events that happen in both world. For example, some economic effects from predictable catastrophes like earthquakes have extreme distributions. An earthquake that has twice the power than the other can cause ten fold economic effects on people. The earthquake in the same magnitude as 100 years before can also cause manyfold effects today than it did then. These kind of socio-economic effects grow in magnitude, when more people live in big cities, and we use more of nature´s resources.

Modern world grows larger and larger winner-take all effects. Even a little bit more skillful athletes can earn ten times more money than athletes few percentage points below their skill levels. Same effects can apply to authors, musicians, and other artists. But this does not always apply. Even a little bit more luckier author with same skills can make hundred fold more money than other.

Nothing to add,

-TT

Tuesday, February 25, 2020

Next text delayded due to sickness

Sorry for not publishing anything, but I have been sick for almost two weeks. I hope next post will be ready next week.

-TT