Friday, October 31
You are a tabby cat. The total home-body. You'd be
content just to stay at home all day and not
get up from the couch. You lazy sloth! Try and
make a movement every now and then, or someone
might decide to bury you in the back yard!
What color of cat are you?
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Sunday, October 26
Railroad Tycoon 3 is out.
Tuesday, October 07
Even at Fark, a site practically overrun by Democrats, they at least hate the French.
Since the dawn of mankind, anyone with a functioning brain over the age of, say, two, has realised that the world is not all it could be. The more practical among us noted the problems that caused the world to be a less than happy place at times: wolves, for example, or illness. And they set out to solve the problems that they could solve: kill the wolves, or better yet, tame them; don't eat pork in summer, and keep your wastes well away from your water supply.
The less practical blamed spirits, or when that failed to satisfy, other people.
Today, illness is well on its way to being a historical field rather than a practical one, and the most likely problem we are to have with any large predator is getting it out of a Harlem apartment without hurting it. The problems we have today are almost entirely of our own making. Occasionally, the forces of nature remind us that they are not in fact, tamed, and blow over a few trailers or collapse a building or two. Sometimes this involves loss of life, which is sad. But it is a rare news item that is news for any reason other than its effect on humanity. A comet colliding with Jupiter is still big news, and I'm glad of this, but it is short-lived compared with the latest celebrity divorce or murder trial.
So, if our problems are of our own making, why are we doing this to ourselves? When we have most of the tools to make this world a paradise, why is one-third of it a pest-hole, and another third a slum?
I can see three reasons. The first is error. We all make mistakes. We are human, and as humans we are flawed. Whether you are religious, and believe that God made us as imperfect vessels with free will, or you are not, and recognise that two pounds of grey gloop driving ten stone of meat and offal is not a recipe for arithmetic precision, it is an observable fact that humans make mistakes. We get things wrong. We screw up.
Mistakes will be with us until the day when we are no longer human, because they are part of what we are. We can, and do, minimise our mistakes, and the impact they have; we make plans, take precautions; we practise, we train; we are careful. And when we make a mistake, we try to fix it. Of course, that doesn't always help...
But mistakes are a known factor, and we deal with them. They cannot explain most of what is wrong with the world, not on the large scale.
The second cause of trouble is what I will call evil. Some people have trouble with this word, considering it too simplistic a judgement for something as complex as a human being. But when we consider a figure like Hitler, or more recently, Saddam Hussein (and even more so, his sons)
People tend to hold overly favorable views of their abilities in many social and intellectual domains. The authors suggest that this overestimation occurs, in part, because people who are unskilled in these domains suffer a dual burden: Not only do these people reach erroneous conclusions and make unfortunate choices, but their incompetence robs them of the metacognitive ability to realize it. Across 4 studies, the authors found that participants scoring in the bottom quartile on tests of humor, grammar, and logic grossly overestimated their test performance and ability. Although their test scores put them in the 12th percentile, they estimated themselves to be in the 62nd. Several analyses linked this miscalibration to deficits in metacognitive skill, or the capacity to distinguish accuracy from error. Paradoxically, improving the skills of participants, and thus increasing their metacognitive competence, helped them recognize the limitations of their abilities.
Or, to use the vernacular:
Moind's Fourth Postulate
The degree of certainty in one's level of competency is inversely proportional to the actual level.
1. The hopelessly incompetent are absolutely certain of their abilities.
2. The competent always have sensible doubts, precisely for the reason that they can realistically assess the situation.
3. The incompetent never realize they are incompetent, precisely for the reason that they lack the competence necessary to discern the difference.
4. The work of the incompetent tends to be superficial and bombastic. By extension of Corollary 3, they are completely unaware of this and usually regard their work as profound and important. The converse also tends to be true: those who regard their work as profound and important usually have an unrealistic appreciation of their abilities (or lack thereof).
5. The incompetent tend to hire people like themselves, since, for obvious reasons, they do not find their own kind threatening. Moreover, they usually confuse the sensible doubts of the competent (see Corollary 2) with a bad attitude, and the overconfidence of the incompetent (see Corollary 4) with great promise.
6. The competent are only tolerated because they are needed to perform all the necessary tasks that the incompetent regard as beneath them, but which are, in reality, beyond their ability.
7. The truly gifted don't even think about any of this. They just do their thing. The converse, however, is far from true.
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