It’s not the fall…

It’s not the fall that gets you, it’s the impact at the end. 

The best metrics describe a state of the world. Hotness has three audiences. “Fahrenheit is basically asking humans how hot it feels. Celsius is basically asking water how hot it feels. Kelvin is basically asking atoms how hot it feels.” (Reddit

Another is the contrast between American and Canadian avalanches. In the states, a medium avalanche is “relative to the path”. In Canada a medium avalanche “could bury a car, destroy a small building, or break a small tree.” The southern system expects the audience to be familiar with the area

A third is calorie counts. Sure, bananas have calories but they can also be zero-point foods. Counting calories isn’t the point. Weight loss is the point, so what’s the best way to communicate information that leads to those actions? 

About hurricanes: “The Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Wind Scale we use to rate hurricanes is based on only wind and doesn’t take into account the chief hazards which can be storm surge and flooding rains. It’s wholly inadequate. We need to go away from rating one through five based on winds. Hurricane Harvey stalled for days over Texas and caused a hundred billion dollar plus disaster (Harvey made landfall as a category four storm, but most of the rainfall and damages was as a tropical storm).” – Dr. Jeff Master 

Hurricanes need to be rated more like Canadian avalanches. If measuring wind speed rather than rainfall wasn’t enough, there’s another problem: the hundred-year storm

Everywhere I’ve lived has a hundred-year storm. In Ohio (Southeast and Northwest) it was floods. In Florida it is hurricanes. Imagine a category five hurricane that hits Beach City once every hundred years. What chance is there for a storm of that level in the next thirty years? 

Master walks through this math. A one-percent chance each year is a ninety-nine percent non-chance. Multiply a ninety-nine percent non-chance thirty times and the hundred-year storm has a 26% chance of occurring in a thirty-year window. 

It’s not the hurricane winds that get you, it’s the flooding afterward. Yet we measure the winds. 

Thinking paths and more

An athlete shoots 70%. If they shoot twice, what are the chances they make at least one? 🤔 

Before answering, consider thinking. Daniel Kahneman has an entire book about Thinking, Fast and Slow. Fast thought is immediate. Slow is deliberate. Often ‘thinking fast’ about thinking fast and slow is that slow is better.

That’s not the case. Lots of fast thought works well. 

One problem with Kahneman’s book – which he admits, Kahneman is a scientist and when the evidence changes his understanding does too – is the social science replication crisis. Some studies don’t repeat. Or repeat quirkily. For example: Linda is 31 years old, single, outspoken, and very bright. She majored in philosophy. As a student, she was deeply concerned with issues of discrimination and social justice, and also participated in anti-nuclear demonstrations.

Which is more probable? (1) Linda is a bank teller. (2) Linda is a bank teller and is active in the feminist movement. 

There’s a lot in there. But our fast reaction goes something like: If this information is here it must be important. Answer number two. That’s how we think. 

But take the same Linda is 31 years old… prompt and ask this question: There are 100 persons who fit Linda’s description. How many of them are: (1) Bank tellers? __ of 100 (2) Bank tellers and active in the feminist movement? __ of 100. 

Phrased that way the conjunction fallacy goes away. 

Thoughts are path dependent. Reframing changes the path.

An athlete misses 30% of the time. If they shoot twice, what are the chances they miss both? 🤔 Well they miss thirty percent of the time. To miss both it would be 30%*30%, which equals 9%. So to the original question, this athlete will make at least one more than ninety percent of the time.

If riddles are a good proxy, there are two tools: intuition and presentation. Intuition is internal. How many mental models do we have? How numerate are we? What’s our (ongoing) education? Presentation is external. What are the norms? What’s the phrasing? All framing is relative so what is this relative to?

Let’s leave with one more. Historically category five hurricanes hit Beach City once every hundred years. What chance is there for a storm of that level in the next thirty years? 

Other examples for our intuition: Birthday Bet, Simpson’s Paradox.

Also, this thinking and these riddles are courtesy of Michael Steiner’s podcast appearances. Sign up for Listen Notes and search him out. I enjoy [The Pathless Path]( & The Derivative.

Just a monkey with a fasting app

The Matrix (1999):
Kung Fu

This came to mind when a friend asked my advice on fasting. I told her what worked for me, what I thought were best practices, and suggested the Zero fasting app.

The app has 330,000+ ratings. It’s in the top 100 Heath and Fitness apps. Which is kind of crazy because, it’s a timer.

Designs matter a lot in our actions. Using the app I make probably 90% of my fasting goals. Days without the app and the number is probably 25%.

One design theory is to consider appropriate information. If fasting is new to someone they need baby steps: an app that shows how much time has elapsed, guides to the ‘right’ fast, and advice, tips, community, etc.

Appropriate information feels like a weird concept until we see it. It’s like, oh, this other way of describing the world exists too Huh. Temperature is one of these areas. What’s the best way to convey information about thermal energy: Celsius, Fahrenheit , or Kelvin? It depends! What’s the gap between the individual and the information? Celsius and Kelvin work great for science and scientists because the information-individual gap has been narrowed by years of education. For the consumer though, Fahrenheit rules the day as the most legible.

Another is how to classify an avalanche. What’s the gap between an individual and the information? The US and Canada, for instance, use different systems. In the States avalanches have five levels according to “the path”: sluff, small, medium, large, major.

“These categories are in relation to path size, so a size or class number is not so meaningful without information on, or familiarity with, the path.” – Avalanche Institute

Locals have a small information-individual gap because they know the area. Compare the American system to the Canadian system, which also has five categories: relatively harmless, could bury or kill a person, could destroy a small building, could destroy a rail car, and largest known. There’s no information-individual gap when the warning is largest known.

It makes sense then that “just a timer” works for so many people. It’s not just a timer. It’s a tool to close the information-individual gap. Oh, I get it now. And even though the gap seems small (Siri set a sixteen hour timer), it’s large enough to matter.

per there’s also an international classification system.

the “just a monkey with a…” idea comes from Erik Jorgenson’s Navalmanack curation.