There’s a shocker

               Dangerous things happen when I think. The unicorns keep dying on me while the dragons prosper. Right. Now why would I tie this with the previous article? Because I can, that’s why. You think I got a system here? I would, if I were a professional, which I’m not. I write when I feel like it, and it’s quite a lot apparently – somebody forgot to pay a bill and now I’m stuck reading cartoons. No, not that kind – Garfield, Dilbert and Dark Legacy Comics work for me. I keep my 9gag browsing for home. My last piece got me thinking of how random events appear not random, especially when it comes to correlations. Monte Carlo simulations only give relevant results in large numbers, a fact quite obvious if we’re looking at polls in the media. If we were to do a Facebook poll on how many people use Twitter for instance, we’d get something above 30%. Could we interpret that as a sign of relevance? Read that again, it’s not what you think. Go on, I’ll wait.

               Polling Facebook is like sticking your hand in a barrel full of bees and then asking if getting a bee sting is relevant. Sort of like polling how many people use internet, on Facebook. You do realise Facebook is not a local hosted website, right? I have to flag sarcasm, apparently. Usually people using social media tend to use more than one platform – so why would that be important? It’s one thing to choose the sample size to be big and quite another to make it relevant. Now ask yourself how much you use past experience to define your reactions to something. Quite alot, isn’t it? Same here, don’t feel bad. But how many times have you had an actual experience with that something? Oh. That’s right. All it takes is one bad example.

               Humans have no experience with that. We react based on instinct. We defend our beliefs. We are social beings, prone to “follow the herd”– like behavior. We don’t think, we react. If something is big, worthy of attention, flashy, we tend to keep it in our minds even if it’s disproven after a while. It takes alot to get us moving but once we do, it takes something equally big and flashy to make us stop. That’s why antivaxxers need an epidemic to be brought back to earth. Statistics don’t help.

               I did show you earlier why in real life you have to be careful of what you believe because we’re not usually being shown the truth. We’re too easily manipulated. Also, we tend to group based on similar beliefs or interests. In that order, if an article tells you “80% of our readers also read…”, be afraid. You won’t learn anything new. But you’ll read the recommended stuff anyway, because why not, right? Wrong. It’s called reinforcement and it’s stupid. Why? Can you find some error in your judgment from somebody who agrees with you? If you can, you’re the only one.

               Simulations are important, but selecting the input correctly is importanter, wait is that even a word? We’re idiots. There is a chance something will happen, like winning the lottery, but it doesn’t mean it will happen to us. Out of 1 billion people playing the lottery and even more tickets sold because why not buy two if it’s only twice the price, what are the odds of us winning? Why would we still buy tickets? Because we’re idiots. All it takes is one win and we’re back in the game.

               Do you watch the news? Why? You don’t see the truth, you see somebody’s opinion of the truth. You don’t? If you think you’re safe, you’re not. If you don’t watch the news, I assume you’re getting your sources from the internet – in that case, how many websites do you browse? No, count them. Do they have editors? If so, why do you assume they want to disagree with you? Why would you even think they don’t care what you think? You might use less than 10 internet sources for your news, probably about 5. How did you choose them? Oh, you liked how they write – in that case a congratulations is in order, now I want to tell you about a wonderful investment opportunity, a bridge over the Thames.. Dude, you’re reading whatever it is you’re reading because it’s something you agree with. You can’t get the truth all the time from 5 websites giving you high-fives. If you read 1000 articles, from 1000 websites, carefully selecting half of them to disagree with your opinion, it would be a good start in the search for truth. Probably. Possibly. But you aren’t doing that, are you?

               The truth is this: our thoughts are influenced, manipulated, by ill-researched information we get from the same very small sample of sources. Your reasoning mechanism may be correct (but likely not, depending on various things and biases, beliefs, mood swings and the moon), but it’s exactly like a computer – feed it crap, it’ll give you crap in return. You don’t have all the information you need to think it the right way, but you think it over anyway – and you base your behavior and belief system on that. Who’s crazy now? I am, apparently. Any simulation of reality has to consider this. Any human reaction to a specific event has to be considered with limitations – no decision is ever, perfectly objective and every decision is based, always, on extremely limited information. One bad pizza is often enough to make most people avoid that particular pizzeria. One guy faking a study of how vaccines are dangerous (yes, it was fake and no, it was not objective – the study had parents evaluating their children’s symptoms, if you didn’t think it was bogus enough) made whole countries worry about vaccination rates, even after it was debunked. You’d think they knew how to google, but it’s exactly the sort of asking yourself if you are wrong type of online research.

               So I ask again, from how many sources do you get your information? Do they all say the same thing using different words? No, I’m actually interested. Honest!


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