A Persian Cafe, Edward Lord Weeks

Tuesday, 8 April 2014

Links, April 2014

Foreign policy is of course an area ripe for being affected by cognitive biases; however, when I saw this article (original paper here) claiming that "all of the cognitive biases in our [complete list of known cognitive biases] all of them favour hawks" I was suspicious - it seems implausible to me that in a list of forty of so biases, all of them would push in one direction. My prior in favour of the article has been raised by this article however, which describes combining a survey of attitudes regarding Russia and Ukraine with a test to see if people could place Ukraine on a map.

It was found that there was a statistically significant (for what that's worth) relationship between being unable to accurately place Ukraine on a map, and favouring military intervention. (Is this evidence that cognitive biases can really be overcome?)

Elsewhere, Robin Hanson observes that, since cognitive biases developed because they were effective ways of thinking, perhaps this is not really a problem.

I don't know how accurate this representation of the spectrum of political beliefs is - and I'm not entirely certain I even understand it - but it's interesting enough to be worth linking to.

A while back a quiz comparing your political views to those of the major parties of the UK was floating around Facebook; my results are here. The correlations with the parties seem to have changed since I took the quiz, and so they may well change in the future, but as of the time of writing I am in 1% agreement with the BNP. This is something I am (mildly) proud of.

I don't know what my views would have been had I been born 80 years ago, but now I know what Superman thought back then.

Get in! Possible contributing factor: bra are generally designed for right-handed women, which makes it difficult to operate them for left-handed women and for right-handed men standing in front of the woman but very easy for a left-handed man.

Bra from the perspective of the presumably right-handed Randall Munroe.

Short video on love and attraction. To my romantic mind it's sad to see how much this seems to be associated with looks, but then again I guess looks are by far the easiest thing to assess about a potential partner.

Speaking of shallow romance, consider this fascinating theory about the Twilight series. It certainly threw the whole series into a different light for me. (On a somewhat related note, if you have read and enjoyed HPMoR then you should read Luminosity, its Twilight-equivalent, which can also be found here).

While I'm still talking about fiction: Harry Potter and the Brokeback Mountain, a video splicing together footage from across the films so as to imply Harry to have had affairs with both Ron and Cedric Diggory.

The first time I was exposed to the debate between Determinism and Free Will, compatibilism didn't seem like a sensible position and I couldn't really face the absence of free will because it would seem to remove all grounds for morality, so by default I adopted libertarianism (in the free-will sense rather than the political sense - that ought to be clear, but I'll just make certain) and started hacking away in a controlled fashion - could one have morality despite determinism? Would it really be so bad if there were no genuine moral rules or injunctions? This post at Practical Ethics suggests that a lot of people share my concern, since there is a strong correlation between belief in free will and desire to punish wrongdoers. To me this seem strange from a logical standpoint, since most of our moral intuitions serve as limitations compared to economically efficient punishment and moral irrealism doesn't forbid us from punishing people - it gives us license to punish whoever we like, whenever we like (although this may come into conflict with our other goals, so it may not be a good idea except in certain circumstances).

Recently, a group of us tried to recreate the foundations of microeconomics while assuming that all agents are perfectly rational utility minimisers. This course in Buddhist Economics is probably somewhere around the same level as a model of good economics.

Now I want to hold a music concert inside a giant cello. It has that fantastic old-timey, warm-and-reliable look about it.

There is a vast amount of fanart being produced relating to Frozen; all of the pictures I've seen, this is my favourite. And have some music to go with it.

A fascinating statistic regarding immigration. If nothing else, it ought to put to bed any concerns about "native culture being overwhelmed".

Despite my extreme political distance from the BNP, I think I'd still be wary of wearing this t-shirt. But I very much hope that someone would wear it.

Market cost-pressures, finding new and unusual ways to save fuel and thus protect the environment since forever.

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