The Monty Hall problem goes like this:
Imagine you’re on a TV game show, and you’re given the choice of three doors: Behind one door is a car; behind the other two doors are goats. You don’t know which is which. Suppose you pick Door Number 1. Now the host, Monty, who knows what’s behind the doors, always opens another door that has a goat, say Door Number 2. He then says, “Before opening door Number 1, I’m offering you the chance to switch to Door Number 3?” Is it to your advantage to switch?
The correct answer is ‘Yes’. …
These four principles come from behavioral science. Behavioral science is the study of the causes, consequences, and influences of people’s behavior. Its triumphs are behind recent Nobel Prize winners such as Daniel Kahneman and Richard Thaler, Obama’s Executive Order to get more Behavioural Science in government, and the rising successes of behavioral economics and data science. It is an integration of ideas from neuroscience, cognitive psychology, economics, and business.
What most of us want to know is how do you put behavioral science into practice? …
For many of us, life is hard enough even when there isn’t a global crisis. But when times get especially hard, our routine environments change. Uncertainty makes it difficult to focus. That, in turn, threatens our sense of self and stability.
Our comfort with ourselves is largely a measure of how we understand our thoughts and manage our actions.
Difficulty focusing is a natural response to uncertainty. When our ancestral environments were full of potential threats, our ancestors who kept one eye open even when they slept tended to survive and become our ancestors — survival of the one-eye-opened. The good sleepers got eaten. As a result, we’re all burdened with an over-active sense of angst, which is only heightened in times of distress. …
Knowing what not to do can save you and maybe even the world.
Brexit is turning out to be a tragic example of bad negotiation. Good negotiators follow a basic set of rules that Brexit has seemingly failed to manage. Negotiations of such complexity are fabulously complicated and we must give those attempting to create value credit where it is due. But in the case of Brexit, perhaps the best value comes in learning how not to negotiate.
1. Brexit negotiators have no idea what lies in store for Britain if there is no deal. One of the first things that hopeful negotiators learn in a negotiation course is that to be effective you have to know what your best alternative to a negotiated agreement is. …
What I’m about to tell you has implications for brain washing, for advertising, and for fake news. It also has implications for the way we grow up, the way we dream, and the way we should present information to other people. And it is the difference between those who make their dreams come true and those who simply believe the stories they are told about who they are and what they can achieve.
I’m a skeptic, by nature. When I was young and my parents dutifully hauled me off to church on Sundays, I insisted on talking with the preacher.
“I’ve got a list of questions,” I said, with my thirteen-year-old confidence. …
And sell them down the river
To a Cajun shanty resting on the swamp knees of mangroves
Where are the miracles yells
Old woman time shakes the coins in her hair
And throws bones on porch boards
Ain’t no coming back from tomorrow
This is all you got
You get one time down the river
Before the angels hoist you up
The yardarms of the gospel ship and sail you up to heaven
Where is the love yells
Grandfather Jazz old black knuckles
Moon ripples on the bayou’s cool
Lace made of cream
Poured out of Gravity’s dance
With his memories of old French…
Planes are what the wind became
After people tamed it and taught it to fly
First they walked it on tethers from hot air balloons
And showed it that there is such a thing as falling into heaven
Then they fed it wood from soft pine
And dreams of birds with hollow bones
They watched as it thrashed about kicking up the dust
Pawing at the sky, at space, at the infinite, unable to fly
Then the people thought maybe our spirits are falcons high above the desert
And the sun-baked wind is our soul
And they fixed their wings and waited for a sunny…
I’m a complete sucker for being asked to do things. I sometimes actively avoid people because I know that if they ask me to do something I will be physically unable to say no. My cats know this. My children know this. Charities seem to know this too, because they’ve forced me into hiding. I must be on some kind of global watchlist somewhere as a celebrity philanthropist. But I’m not. I’m just a regular guy. Probably not much different from you.
Actually, I know I’m no special case because entire books have been written on helping people to learn how to say no. They’re on my reading list, I promise. I guess saying no isn’t an easy thing to do. Most of us want to be liked. …
Richard Wrangham described the behavior of a young chimp, Kakama, who played with a small log as if it were a child. Kakam made a small nest for it, held it, and seemingly loved it. What is the best scientific explanation for this behavior? Do you risk anthromorphising the behavior by suggesting it is like what a child does? Or do you risk anthropodenial by assuming the chimp is just an automaton, more like a watch than a human, just a watch who happens to like logs?
The usual way to go about answering this is to appeal to parsimony.
Parsimony is the principle of valuing the simplest scientific explanation for a phenomenon as best among all explanations. …
It is tempting to set up religion against science in any discussion of life, death, and purpose. But religion and science are different kinds of things and one can find spiritual truths in both of them. Why we die is a question for which both offer an answer.
Science answers in relation to the mechanics of life, which are based on the inferences we can make from material experience. Religions, to differing degrees, offer explanations for what lies beyond the curtain: they tell us about what we do not know, and sometimes cannot know, and must therefore take on faith.
Throughout history, there was a lot we didn’t know. Religions provided God, in many forms, as an explanation for why things happened as they did. …