This Blog’s Biases

Supported by Greenhaven Road Capital, finding value off the beaten path.

Traffic and automotive. This blog is annoyed by the automotive. Traffic and Happy City form the outline of my ideas about cars, roads, and how people use them. In general, they don’t bring out the best in us because of a poor feedback structure. However, looking at them through the lens of In-N-Out’s Cheeseburgers shows path dependent effects and lets us study a Chesterton Fence.

Mediums. This blog probably oversamples from people on podcasts. If someone doesn’t share their work we miss them. I’d wager we also don’t get everyone’s best ideas. Some also keep their head down so not to attract competition, avoiding alpha erosion.

Good enough. This blog probably overestimates the importance of ‘good enough.’ In marketing, it goes under satisficing, where we don’t maximize like economists but satisfice like humans. In Christensen’s disruption theory consumers switch from one product to another because the previously important area is now good enough and something else is paramount. In money, it lives in the FIRE movement, where people decide a lifestyle is good enough.

Conditions matter. This blog probably overestimates how much conditions matter. Network researcher Nicholas Christakis explained one experiment: “The gist of the experiment is that I can take you people and connect you according to one set of rules and you’re mean sons-of-bitches to each other. Or I can take you and connect you by a different set of rules and you’re sweet and kind to each other. It’s the same people, but different architecture yields different emergent properties of the system.” However…

Research and the real world. This blog probably overemphasizes the written and underemphasizes the done. Ironically, being there is advice that comes up again and again. Robert Cialdini gave one example when he said “I went into it (his first field project) to get some ideas for doing research in my laboratories. Say something this way versus that way…I realized that in a laboratory with college students I was missing the power of these techniques to really make a difference outside of the laboratory in the real world.” Facing the winds of the real world is also where you find thick data.

Kindness. This blog probably gives too much space to nice people – maybe. Here I’m selective, rationalizing more like Gerd Gigerenzer, that kindness is ‘rational’ because there’s more than the idea in a message.

Arguments. This blog probably overestimates the value of good arguments. It’s been a long time since I was part of a team working on a project so maybe people are doing this or maybe it’s a marginal benefit or maybe people don’t have the resources to disagree. But maybe not. James Mattis said:

“Take the mavericks in your service, the ones that wear rumpled uniforms and look like a bag of mud but whose ideas are so offsetting that they actually upset the people in the bureaucracy. One of your primary jobs is to take the risk and protect these people, because if they are not nurtured in your service, the enemy will bring their contrary ideas to you.”

Thanks for reading.

4 thoughts on “This Blog’s Biases”

  1. Long time reader/listener, but first time I’ve commented. Today’s post on your biases was a great read. It never occurred to me until now that you do skew towards talking about generally nice individuals. How about a podcast episode on successful assholes? Do they even exist? Sure, some assholes are highly successfully in a single domain, but is a billionaire with 5 ex-wives really a “successful” individual? It looks to me to be a rich topic. Using inversion, I have to think that lifetime success is easier through kindness than meanness as it makes more friends and fewer enemies, but even here I think there is a lot of gray on this generalization. Rockefeller could be ruthless in business, but was a good family man, spouse and philanthropist outside of work.

    Thanks for all your podcasts. They help me lose weight as I exercise longer to the best podcasts:)

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    1. Yeah, lots of ways to dicuss the morally reprehensible….

      One way to tackle this is to identify The Ideal Life, and then for each “successful” person see how far they fall short. One difficulty would likely be in clearly delimiting The Ideal Life that most readers would agree with.

      Another way is to remove all value judgements (ambition, hubris, etc.) and just focus on the mechanics; were their actions functionally different than other people’s? Just as an average bicyclist is faster than any runner, we would want to be able to look at a “successful” life and identify when they were using a form of advantage that others were not.

      Another is to acknowledge that we do not control the stories of our lives, what looks like a perfectly good trade-off to one person can be unconscionable to another — e.g. Schwarzenegger’s story about missing his dad’s funeral. We would want to be able to identify the important decisions they made, and the option set available at each time.

      Others?

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      1. the FIRE individuals do a good job or reframing values right?
        Cowen at MR seems to live according to his ideals.
        Is the most important/most malleable thing then to rewrite the story we want?

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    2. Thanks Doug. I think you nailed it, much more to success than money, but there are things to take from ways to succeed w/money and apply them to other areas.

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