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Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Data Driven Versus Preference Driven

I'm a numbers kind of guy, so you might guess that empirical observations and results would be important to me. And they are, to some extent, in things like robotics and the hard sciences.

As far as living my life, though, I'm totally preference driven and very subjective. Here is a little analogy to help make my position clear:
I strongly dislike the color pink (this is actually true). If I'm around a lot of pink I get irritable and tend to feel claustrophobic. 
Let's say for sake of discussion, that numerous studies had been done that proved that pink was, beyond a doubt, the best color and it promoted happiness, stimulated positive brain activity, increased productivity, promoted harmony, enhanced compassion, and on and on and on. And everybody agreed that the studies were well done and the results statistically significant beyond a shadow of a doubt. Perhaps if I bothered to look at these studies, I would also agree that they were accurate. 
The first thing to consider is that I probably wouldn't even bother looking at or considering the studies. Because they wouldn't really have anything to do with me. No matter what they said, I still wouldn't like pink. It would still make me feel kinda sick and definitely irritable. So yes, I would simply ignore the data and that would mean I'm essentially ignoring this bit of reality. Why wouldn't I? 
So now let's say the government, based on the excellent scientific evidence, decides that painting the country pink is a desirable policy and it has the support of a solid majority of the voters. Pink is now everywhere; there are pink houses and pink buildings and pink cars and pink roads and pink airplanes and so forth. This pink reality has been foisted upon me and I have no choice but to live with it. So what would I do? I would, of course, do my best to ignore it. I would wear blue sunglasses whenever possible, for example. Again, I would do my best to ignore reality.
So now people tell me I'm deluded to ignore reality because reality is getting pinker and better all of the time and everything's really wonderful and thank heavens that scientists were able to prove wrong those charlatans who had the outrageous audacity to claim a few years back that blue was the better color! 
At this point, I can only hope to not be sent to the Pinko Archipelago for color behavior reconfiguration.

As most people who know me are aware, I much prefer small, very limited, non-intrusive government. This is a subjective preference and I'm not claiming there's necessarily any objective reason for my preference. I was involved in an email exchange where I think the other person was frustrated that I wouldn't engage him particularly seriously on an empirical level. He had a seemingly unending number of claims (most of them seemed kinda bogus to me) about how wonderful government is (well, at least the democrat portion of it; republicans are, of course, the root of all evil) and how government has made life oh-so-wonderful for everybody, including me.

But just like the pink story above, you could prove to me beyond a shadow of a doubt that big governments were the best thing ever, and at best, my response would be, "yeah, okay, whatever," because it doesn't really apply to me. I'm still not going to like a big, intrusive government and I still am not going to be particularly happy living under one. My solution is to just ignore it the best I can and hope that it doesn't step on me too hard. In other words, my solution is to basically ignore reality.

Delusion can be you friend.

23 comments:

erp said...

Bret, we'll all be ignoring the reality of what's happening around us. Perhaps there will be a regrouping of like-minded people settling in the wilderness somewhere out of the grasp of the one worlders who will keep alive the spark of freedom during the coming dark ages just like those Semitic folk in the Middle East did with the classics of ancient civilizations.

Secret is most of the elites leading us now have no idea how to do anything useful, so as things break down in the future, who will they call to keep things going???

Clovis e Adri said...

Bret,

---
[...] you could prove to me beyond a shadow of a doubt that big governments were the best thing ever, [...] I'm still not going to like a big, intrusive government and I still am not going to be particularly happy living under one.
---

In that case, assuming your premise as true (we could prove big govts being absolutely the best), the next question is why should any of your fellow citizens ever care that you don't want to take your medicine.

Unlike colors, which are truly subjective preferences, levels and kinds of government take in account objective things that should not be ignored in favor of personal preferences - because government happens to be a collective thing, as opposed to individual color preferences, so you can't really opt out.


My point being, your analogy with color preference is very poor. I know you can do far better than that in discussing with your friend, so I am guessing here the real reason was: you were too tired for that. Why didn't you just state so?

Bret said...

erp asks: "... who will they [the incompetent elites] call to keep things going?"

The robots, of course! :-)

Bret said...

Clovis,

Well, I was tired and rushed, but I don't think the argument is as bad as you're making it out to be.

First, I did note that "I have no choice but to live with it." Whether right because of might or right because the fabric of civilization somehow requires it, I agree that I have no choice but to endure the "medicine." I think it's human nature (or at least it's my nature) to do my best to make that endurance as palatable as possible and generally that means ignoring it whenever possible.

Second, ignoring reality gets easier by the day. With the Oculus Rift and the HTC Vive, a major step has been taking towards Matrix level virtual reality. I think that in a few decades, vast swaths of people worldwide will simply check out into their own completely tailorable virtual reality. Fortunately, during that same period of time, robots will be able to do everything required to sustain humanity so everyone will be happy. Everyone EXCEPT meddlesome busybody bureaucrats and politicians whose lives are only made full by being pretend "saviors". Those folks will simply be ignored by everyone else.

But the main point, and I'm sorry you don't see it and that is a failing of the post, is that sure, if pink is that important, I have to live with it. But the benefit of the doubt should go to not taking action because liberty, freedom, and preference are really more important than scientism based policy for most things.

Clovis e Adri said...

Bret,

---
But the benefit of the doubt should go to not taking action ...
---

But this is the point: you took away any doubt once you wrote "you could prove to me beyond a shadow of a doubt that big governments were the best thing ever".

In reality, of course, you can hardly prove so, and at some levels have strong evidence to the contrary.

After some level of wealth, and I guess you guys in the USA are above such level, all of this discussion may sound a bit like choosing colors, I guess. For those of us below such comfortable wealth standards, I can tell you it is lives at stakes.

Bret said...

Clovis wrote: "For those of us below such comfortable wealth standards, I can tell you it is lives at stakes."

Yeah, I know, and I know that a lot of what I write is nothing more than the whiny complaints of an overly comfortable (relatively) rich white guy, and for that I apologize, but hey, that's who I am and this is a forum I enjoy writing at.

Speaking of politics mattering (as opposed to here, where it's mostly just nattering), can you tell us more about what seems to be called impeachment but sorta looks almost like a coup against Rousseff that's going on down there.

Clovis e Adri said...

Bret,

It was not my intention to call you on your rich-white-male privilege, only to make fun of this view of politics as colour play.


As four Roussef, it is a bit of a coup indeed, but can we call it so when a solid majority of the population and the legislative houses want her out?

The political class (a good part of them former allies) wants it because she was unable to stop the massive corruption scandals from being investigated, hence ruining their peace.

A large part of the population wants it because she has been truly incompetent at most matters and her govern descended into chaos.

So they all got the opportunity to impeach her on some relatively weak claims - her govt did some fiscal tricks to mask the size of the deficit in years past. They basically took advantadge of some gray areas of accounting, and the room they had to temporarily default on debts to public banks, to make the deficit a little bit lower. Was it wrong? Sure, but basically every government before them did it too (on a smaller scale though) and more than half of States routinely do so without anyone ever being impeached.

So the alleged reason for impeachment sounds like giving a harsh prison time to someone who stole a chicken in the supermarket, while you let free all the murderers and rapists all around.

Of course, since the murderers and rapists hope it may help to end any investigation on them, they sure voted massively to impeach her.

I thing her govt was agonizing and took too many big-government positions that helped to wreck the economy. Yet, I am not among the happy faces today for her impeachment - the next guy (her vice-president and his party) are probably more corrupt and will quietly let their friends off the hook while prosecuting a few chicken burglars to keep up appearances.

And that's Brazil, folks.

Bret said...

Clovis,

Thanks for the Brazil update, you've made it much, much clearer. For some reason, I was unable to piece that together from the occasional news article I encountered. In fact, I was unable to even have a rough idea of what was happening. Now, with your input, I'll be able to decipher the news articles about Brazil going forward.

And I know you didn't intentionally call me on my privilege, but it is good to be reminded of that from time to time. Though it ties into one of the other points I was making in the debate that I used the pink thing as an example. I was saying that we Americans are, at this point, so wealthy that we are essentially nearly completely isolated from reality. Almost no matter what, Americans will all eat, have adequate clothes, generally have a place to sleep, and even have access to entertainment. And at this point, we may have enough momentum such that we emerge isolated from politics - in other words it doesn't matter who's elected and what policies the government enacts. We'll get to something vaguely resembling Kurzweil's Singularity where technology overwhelms reality and politics for everybody.

But I think it's important that I remember that it's not true everywhere, not for Brazil, and even less so for much of the world (much of Africa, for example). At least not yet.

erp said...

Clovis, we watched "Flying Down to Rio," a 1933 film last night. It was the usual Hollywood preposterous plot, but the street scenes of Rio were fascinating and the carioca number lots of fun. From it, I learned about the same thing about Brazil you learned about the U.S. from films and TV. :-)

Was the pre-war government in Brazil better or worse than the long line of corrupt governments since then. The cursory search I did seemed to intimate that Nazi's had a lot to do with how things progressed. It's the vague idea I had from contemporary media too.

erp said...

Flying Down to Rio Notes. FTA Contemporary news items report the following information about the production: Prior to principal photography, cameramen J. Roy Hunt and Dick Deval spent one month in Rio de Janeiro taking footage for scenes in the film.

Clovis e Adri said...

Erp,

---
Was the pre-war government in Brazil better or worse than the long line of corrupt governments since then.
---
Tough question, given I was not there to compare :-)

I doubt so. Messed up as we are, I still keep the impression (or hope?) that on the long run we have been improving, even if erratically.


---
The cursory search I did seemed to intimate that Nazi's had a lot to do with how things progressed. It's the vague idea I had from contemporary media too.
---
Nazis? I don't quite get what you mean, Erp. We had sort of a good relationship with the Nazis before we declared war on them, but so had the US.



The other day I've read at Instapundit's comments someone decrying Brazil as a socialist sh*t-hole (it was some article about the Olympics) like Venezuela. That's some lazy thinking, people got to study one LA country (Cuba or Venezuela) and try to extend it to the rest of the region, so they don't have to learn anything new.

It is hard to see Brazil as socialist, when all (and I mean all) our building have two separate sets of elevators, one for employees, maids and other low level workers, and the other for the beautiful people. Maids can get fired for being in the wrong elevator.

Most houses and apartments here are still built with one separate bathroom (and bedroom) for the maid. I live in an apartment of roughly 800 squared feet, but it does have a separate dorm and bath for the cleaning lady - an absolute waste of precious space.

We are planning to build a house, and when we show to people our project - where there is no exclusive bathroom for the maid (so she is supposed to use the same as the guests, the horror!) nor her own bedroom - many still find it quite odd. Some told us we are losing property value with that, if we try to sell the house in future.


I told you guys before, Brazil is a bit of what would be the American south without they ever freeing the slaves properly. We may have imported your republican ideals and copied your institutions, but we never had Founding Fathers and many believers on all those higher concepts of Freedom.

Then in the 40's we copied you guys again by building a whole state-based or state-induced industry in the New Deal model (including workers right alike), and we got frozen in that model up to 1994, explaining the anemic growth we got after the 70's when much of the New Deal stuff was rejected elsewhere.

We are still half-frozen in lots of New Deal things - the (State) Oil company (Petrobras) is the origin of the massive corruption scandals that created our present mess.

So, trying to answer your question Erp, I don't think Nazi, or Socialist, or all those descriptions available for other countries fit all too well for us. We have a sort of Slavery-Oligarchy-mutating-into-New-Deal-Plutocracy model that ends up pretty much being our own.

erp said...

... Clovis, the reason we don't have a separate quarters for maids is few of us have live-in maids. Over the years, I've known some middle-class people like us who've had live-in nannies for kids of two working parents, many of them au pairs who come here for a year or two to improve their English. No separate quarters either -- many slept in the same room as the kids.

Re: Nazi's. We only got along with them while they were in bed with Uncle Joe. As soon as Hitler invaded Russia, we got on board with fighting them and please don't repeat how Russia won the war. We had friends and relatives in the service and heard the stories of how we went out of our way to allow the Soviets to enjoy the spoils including handing over Eastern Europe. Would have handed over the rest of Europe if Marshall hadn't stepped in.

Bret said...

Clovis,

Wow. Given that Brazil is probably in the top ten largest economies in the world with lots of trade, it's amazing how little most of us know about it.

Things like separate elevators? I had no idea. It does sound kinda like the old(ish) South here.

800 square feet with a kid? That's pretty cozy. How many square feet will the house be?

We sure hope you solve your political crisis. I feel bad for the Venezuelans for the tough straits they're in. If Brazil collapses, then I'll get to feel bad for Brazilians and the rest of the world because the economic impact will affect everybody.

erp said...

... Forgot. Why are you surprised that elites have separate services for the servants. Lefties are the most bigoted, racist, arrogant of people who disdain the proletariat and pander to, but detest the great unwashed. BTW - Professors aren't among the upper classes here as they may be in Brazil.

Clovis e Adri said...

Erp,

Professors aren't upper class here either. That's what you are missing: every average middle class down here is supposed to have a maid (live-in ones being rather usual). That's why even small apartments like mine have rooms for them.

In numbers, 17% of the feminine workforce (nearly 7 million women, among 200 million people) are maids down here.



Bret,

It is 800 sqfeets with *two* kids. Since 18 days ago, I am the happy father of a little girl too.

We intend to build a house nearly 3000 sqf, and speaking of the crisis, we'll need to postpone it because the political and economic uncertainties dried up the credit at the banks.

Damn third world politics. Not quite like just choosing colours.

Bret said...

Clovis,

Super congrats!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Hmmm. I guess that explains why you've been commenting a little less lately. That's okay, for that, I'll forgive you. :-)

erp said...

... I'm not missing that, I just thought that perhaps professors had a little more standing in Latin countries than they have among us materialists and speaking for myself, I could have forgiven a small apartment and a lot of other frivolous luxuries for a live-in maid when I my kids were small, especially since we lived in the days before the nukatorium was available to make multiple meal times easy peasy.

Enquiring mind want to know. Do you have a live-in maid and does she double as a nanny?

Clovis e Adri said...

Erp,

No, we don't.

Though not having one is the number one complaint of many Brazilians I know of when they go go to live abroad.


Bret,

Thanks for your forgiveness :-)

Howard said...

I was saying that we Americans are, at this point, so wealthy that we are essentially nearly completely isolated from reality. Almost no matter what, Americans will all eat, have adequate clothes, generally have a place to sleep, and even have access to entertainment.

All members of my family have a sense of gratitude for their fortunate circumstances. If any of them complains about something for more than a moment, I usually quickly reply "first world problem." Their perspective is instantly restored.

Harry Eagar said...

'We only got along with them while they were in bed with Uncle Joe.'

You ought to look up the reason we named an aircraft carrier for Carl Vinson. Note the dates.

erp said...

Why not just come out and tell us what you are talking about?

Harry Eagar said...

I don't see how you can have a complex society without a big government. The prairie provinces are hotbeds of rightwingism, but I bet even the rightwingers in Ft McMurray were glad of a fully functioning government last week.

erp said...

You are confusing complex with complicated. They are not synonymous.