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The Basic Laws of Human Stupidity
Posted: 08 June 2009 11:26 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 16 ]
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faithlessgod - 08 June 2009 10:37 AM
I’m Unemployed - 07 June 2009 09:34 PM

There was no objective justification given for the idea that such a large portion of the populace is unintelligent, and in my experience such claims indicate that the person making them feel that nearly all others are far less intelligent than they without justification, and I think that attitude is kind of disgusting.

You are missing the point of the piece. As humorous as it was, it incorporates are really interesting idea and one quite contrary to the simplistic false dichotomy of self-interest versus altruism and of many more realistic and sophisticated elaborations of such concepts. Namely it provided an amusing operational definition of stupidity, that of behaving in a way to the detriment of others and oneself - a category that it looks virtually undeniable to exist (although I would be interested in attempts to do so), yet has been missed by many great thinkers studying practical rationality.

Yes and it also stated that “stupid people come to us through “Providence”. I don’t think he meant R.I.

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Posted: 04 August 2009 09:08 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 17 ]
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(I’m not into poetry,
but once in awhile I’m smacked with something
that makes me understand why many are into poetry)

&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&
This seems(to me) to relate to the above thread…..........
NPR All Things Considered ~ 4-16-9
#################################################################

‘The Drunken Driver Has the Right Of Way’

by Ethan Coen

The loudest have the final say,
The wanton win, the rash hold sway,
The realist’s rules of order say
The drunken driver has the right of way.

The Kubla Khan can butt in line;
The biggest brute can take what’s mine;
When heavyweights break wind, that’s fine;
No matter what a judge might say,
The drunken driver has the right of way.

The guiltiest feel free of guilt;
Who care not, bloom; who worry, wilt;
Plans better laid are rarely built
For forethought seldom wins the day;
The drunken driver has the right of way.

The most attentive and unfailing
Carefulness is unavailing
Wheresoever fools are flailing;
Wisdom there is held at bay;,
The drunken driver has the right of way.

De jure is de facto’s slave;
The most foolhardy beat the brave;
Brass routs restraint; low lies high’s grave;
When conscience leads you, it’s astray;
The drunken driver has the right of way.

It’s only the naivest who’ll
Deny this, that the reckless rule;
When facing an oncoming fool
The practiced and sagacious say
Watch out — one side — look sharp — gang way.

However much you plan and pray,
Alas, alack, tant pis, oy vey,
Now — heretofore — til Judgment Day,
The drunken driver has the right of way.

Excerpted from ‘The Drunken Driver Has The Right Of Way’ by Ethan Coen.

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Posted: 06 August 2009 08:45 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 18 ]
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dougsmith - 08 June 2009 06:24 AM
VYAZMA - 08 June 2009 05:30 AM

I’d love for someone to give me an example of “an irrational thought process”.

Believing that flying is more dangerous than driving and so driving from NY to Chicago instead of taking a plane. That’s one example. There are a million others.

Hmm… what you described is not irrational, it’s uninformed. It becomes irrational only after they are confronted with the evidence that flying is safer than driving. Or, arguably, if they refuse to even look at any evidence.

(P.S. I agree with you, just nitpicking.)

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Posted: 06 August 2009 08:48 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 19 ]
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shiraz - 06 August 2009 08:45 AM
dougsmith - 08 June 2009 06:24 AM
VYAZMA - 08 June 2009 05:30 AM

I’d love for someone to give me an example of “an irrational thought process”.

Believing that flying is more dangerous than driving and so driving from NY to Chicago instead of taking a plane. That’s one example. There are a million others.

Hmm… what you described is not irrational, it’s uninformed. It becomes irrational only after they are confronted with the evidence that flying is safer than driving. Or, arguably, if they refuse to even look at any evidence.

(P.S. I agree with you, just nitpicking.)

Understood. Sometimes there is a rather fine line between being irrational and being uninformed.

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Posted: 11 August 2009 08:40 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 20 ]
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dougsmith - 08 June 2009 06:24 AM
VYAZMA - 08 June 2009 05:30 AM

I’d love for someone to give me an example of “an irrational thought process”.

Believing that flying is more dangerous than driving and so driving from NY to Chicago instead of taking a plane. That’s one example. There are a million others.

I would hesitate to suggest that a fear of flying is irrational because the fear can be justified.  A fear of puppies is irrational, or thinking that Obama is not a naturally born citizen because his father was an immigrant, or that the government was behind 9/11. 

While air travel can boast fewer accidents, their accidents are far more dangerous and life threatening.  As opposed to driving, airline accidents are impossible to predict.  I know that if there’s a car barreling down the road toward a yellow light and the light changes to red, they’re not going to stop.  I know that if there is a semi behind me, I better not attempt to stop at a yellow light.  If there’s a car full of 16 year olds riding me while texting on their cell phones, I know to let them by.  You can typically see car accidents coming.  When you’re getting on a plane, you don’t know if the pilot has been drinking or if he’s hopped up on cough medicine.  You don’t know if the plane has been thoroughly inspected or if it has been equipped with faulty parts.  You don’t know if there is a deranged individual on board who wants to fly it into a building.  I would agree that there are more fatalities from car accidents each year, but a fear of flying is completely justified given the element of uncertainty that is involved.

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Posted: 11 August 2009 10:30 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 21 ]
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thoswm - 11 August 2009 08:40 AM

While air travel can boast fewer accidents, their accidents are far more dangerous and life threatening.  As opposed to driving, airline accidents are impossible to predict.  I know that if there’s a car barreling down the road toward a yellow light and the light changes to red, they’re not going to stop.  I know that if there is a semi behind me, I better not attempt to stop at a yellow light.  If there’s a car full of 16 year olds riding me while texting on their cell phones, I know to let them by.  You can typically see car accidents coming.  When you’re getting on a plane, you don’t know if the pilot has been drinking or if he’s hopped up on cough medicine.  You don’t know if the plane has been thoroughly inspected or if it has been equipped with faulty parts.  You don’t know if there is a deranged individual on board who wants to fly it into a building.  I would agree that there are more fatalities from car accidents each year, but a fear of flying is completely justified given the element of uncertainty that is involved.

Well, I’m not sure exactly what the argument is here. Flying is safer on all the important criteria: time between accidents, distance between accidents, etc. So you are demonstrably more likely to survive to your destination if you fly than if you drive. (That is, if you fly on a commercial airliner. IIRC private planes are significantly less safe).

Part of the irrationality in misinterpreting the statistical data about flying does have to do with the illusion of control one has while driving, and that one lacks while flying. Of course, one is in more control while driving oneself, however the illusion comes in believing that that control makes you any safer. And of course being plowed into in an intersection by a drunk driver is no more in your control while you’re driving than having an engine go out while you’re flying. But that’s simply an example; the statistics give the rule.

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Posted: 11 August 2009 11:04 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 22 ]
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dougsmith - 11 August 2009 10:30 AM
thoswm - 11 August 2009 08:40 AM

While air travel can boast fewer accidents, their accidents are far more dangerous and life threatening.  As opposed to driving, airline accidents are impossible to predict.  I know that if there’s a car barreling down the road toward a yellow light and the light changes to red, they’re not going to stop.  I know that if there is a semi behind me, I better not attempt to stop at a yellow light.  If there’s a car full of 16 year olds riding me while texting on their cell phones, I know to let them by.  You can typically see car accidents coming.  When you’re getting on a plane, you don’t know if the pilot has been drinking or if he’s hopped up on cough medicine.  You don’t know if the plane has been thoroughly inspected or if it has been equipped with faulty parts.  You don’t know if there is a deranged individual on board who wants to fly it into a building.  I would agree that there are more fatalities from car accidents each year, but a fear of flying is completely justified given the element of uncertainty that is involved.

Well, I’m not sure exactly what the argument is here. Flying is safer on all the important criteria: time between accidents, distance between accidents, etc. So you are demonstrably more likely to survive to your destination if you fly than if you drive. (That is, if you fly on a commercial airliner. IIRC private planes are significantly less safe).

Part of the irrationality in misinterpreting the statistical data about flying does have to do with the illusion of control one has while driving, and that one lacks while flying. Of course, one is in more control while driving oneself, however the illusion comes in believing that that control makes you any safer. And of course being plowed into in an intersection by a drunk driver is no more in your control while you’re driving than having an engine go out while you’re flying. But that’s simply an example; the statistics give the rule.

I agree that the statistical data clearly proves that flying is safer.  I’m not trying to argue that it is safer to drive than it is to fly, just that feeling safer in a car than in a plane is completely rational.  People are not comfortable in situations that have uncertainty or offer them no control.  I completely agree that you don’t always have control while driving because you cannot control what other drivers do, but there are many instances in which you can identify a hazard and avoid it.  Depending on whether or not you see the drunk in advance, you have the power to react to it.

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Posted: 11 August 2009 11:55 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 23 ]
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thoswm - 11 August 2009 11:04 AM

I agree that the statistical data clearly proves that flying is safer.  I’m not trying to argue that it is safer to drive than it is to fly, just that feeling safer in a car than in a plane is completely rational.  People are not comfortable in situations that have uncertainty or offer them no control.  I completely agree that you don’t always have control while driving because you cannot control what other drivers do, but there are many instances in which you can identify a hazard and avoid it.  Depending on whether or not you see the drunk in advance, you have the power to react to it.

Hmm ... so it seems like we are in agreement as to all the facts except that it is irrational to feel safer because you appear to have control.

Tthe appearance of control would give you reason (= make it rational) to fear flying more than driving if that appearance of control were, first, a good indication of actual control, and second, correlated with safety in some way. The problem is, it isn’t.

Re. the first issue, there is a well-known psychological syndrome called the illusion of control, that shows that humans are often simply mistaken about what they can control and what they can’t. I would argue that such an illusion is operative in this case. Yes, we can control certain things about how our own car moves, however this control is illusory if one believes that we can control the environmental features that typically make driving unsafe.

That is to say, we are routinely overoptimistic about our own abilities, e.g., about our ability to drive safely, and avoid hazards like drunk drivers. The only recourse in these sorts of situations is to the actual statistics, which show, as I say, that it is unreasonable to consider driving safer than flying, and hence irrational to drive instead of fly if by doing so one is trying to take the safest course of action.

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Posted: 11 August 2009 01:52 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 24 ]
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Hmm ... so it seems like we are in agreement as to all the facts except that it is irrational to feel safer because you appear to have control.

Tthe appearance of control would give you reason (= make it rational) to fear flying more than driving if that appearance of control were, first, a good indication of actual control, and second, correlated with safety in some way. The problem is, it isn’t.

Re. the first issue, there is a well-known psychological syndrome called the illusion of control, that shows that humans are often simply mistaken about what they can control and what they can’t. I would argue that such an illusion is operative in this case. Yes, we can control certain things about how our own car moves, however this control is illusory if one believes that we can control the environmental features that typically make driving unsafe.

That is to say, we are routinely overoptimistic about our own abilities, e.g., about our ability to drive safely, and avoid hazards like drunk drivers. The only recourse in these sorts of situations is to the actual statistics, which show, as I say, that it is unreasonable to consider driving safer than flying, and hence irrational to drive instead of fly if by doing so one is trying to take the safest course of action.

I understand where you are coming from with the issue of control, but to have some control is better than having no control.  You cannot control the conditions in which you drive but you can control how you drive in those conditions. 

In retrospect, perhaps it was wrong for me to equate a belief that driving is safer than flying to a fear of flying.  I guess the question that I’m putting forth is whether or not fear is rational.  If someone has a particular fear of flying that you believe to be rational but has no fear of driving (unless the same reason could also apply to driving), I would see it as rational for their choice to drive instead.

Also, I think one issue of this is the fact that accidents are so common, they seem to be less frightening.  That, along with the fact that cars are becoming safer.  I think a lot of people consider the magnitude of air disasters compared to car accidents.  If I’m flying from NY to LA, I can think “either I can drive with a slim possibility that I will be in a moderate to severe accident at 50 mph, or I can fly with an extremely slim possibility that I could end up in a free fall from 15,000 feet.”  Even though car accidents are more common, you are much more likely to survive a car accident than an air accident.  And even though they are extremely rare, they do happen.  If the lottery has taught us anything, it’s that odds don’t really mean much to a lot of people.

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Posted: 11 August 2009 02:14 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 25 ]
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thoswm - 11 August 2009 01:52 PM

I understand where you are coming from with the issue of control, but to have some control is better than having no control.

Better when and in what way? You have no control over the airplane, but the person with the control is a well-trained expert, who has computer-aided backup. In that case, it’s better for you not to have control.

thoswm - 11 August 2009 01:52 PM

Also, I think one issue of this is the fact that accidents are so common, they seem to be less frightening.  That, along with the fact that cars are becoming safer.  I think a lot of people consider the magnitude of air disasters compared to car accidents.  If I’m flying from NY to LA, I can think “either I can drive with a slim possibility that I will be in a moderate to severe accident at 50 mph, or I can fly with an extremely slim possibility that I could end up in a free fall from 15,000 feet.”

But are these fair comparisons? One can be involved in horrific car accidents, after all, and IIRC most people involved in airplane accidents walk away from them.

You are right that odds don’t matter to people, but rationally they should.

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Posted: 11 August 2009 03:01 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 26 ]
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dougsmith - 11 August 2009 02:14 PM
thoswm - 11 August 2009 01:52 PM

I understand where you are coming from with the issue of control, but to have some control is better than having no control.

Better when and in what way? You have no control over the airplane, but the person with the control is a well-trained expert, who has computer-aided backup. In that case, it’s better for you not to have control.

thoswm - 11 August 2009 01:52 PM

Also, I think one issue of this is the fact that accidents are so common, they seem to be less frightening.  That, along with the fact that cars are becoming safer.  I think a lot of people consider the magnitude of air disasters compared to car accidents.  If I’m flying from NY to LA, I can think “either I can drive with a slim possibility that I will be in a moderate to severe accident at 50 mph, or I can fly with an extremely slim possibility that I could end up in a free fall from 15,000 feet.”

But are these fair comparisons? One can be involved in horrific car accidents, after all, and IIRC most people involved in airplane accidents walk away from them.

You are right that odds don’t matter to people, but rationally they should.

The problem is that you do not know how well the pilot was trained.  I recall watching a special on the History Channel awhile back about a passenger jet crashing soon after takeoff.  The pilot came into some turbulence, so he made dramatic use of the rudder as an attempt to stabilize it.  This caused the rudder to break off, forcing the plane to crash.  It later emerged that this was the way the pilots were being trained to handle the turbulence, and investigations showed that it was his use of the rudder that caused most of the turbulence and even what caused the rudder to break off.  Now I’m not trying to say that a large number of pilots are incompetent, but you do not know the condition of your particular pilot or the plane.  I also remember hearing reports a couple years ago about pilots drinking alcohol.  I think not knowing the expertise or professionalism of the pilot is a legitimate concern. 

As to the comparisons, I think it is completely fair.  If not, one shouldn’t be comparing driving and flying in the first place.  I do think it’s fortunate that many of the aircraft accidents happen at relatively low speeds, either during landing or take off.  However, there are some that aren’t that lucky.  Several years ago, there was a small passenger plane that crashed very close to my home.  Ice built up on the wings causing it to roll over and take a nose dive into the earth.  Those are extremely rare, but I think the uncertainty of not knowing when those freak accidents are going to happen legitimizes the fear.  Car accidents do have the possibility of being horrific, but they are far easier to predict.

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Posted: 11 August 2009 03:17 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 27 ]
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thoswm - 11 August 2009 03:01 PM

The problem is that you do not know how well the pilot was trained.  I recall watching a special on the History Channel awhile back about a passenger jet crashing soon after takeoff.  The pilot came into some turbulence, so he made dramatic use of the rudder as an attempt to stabilize it.  This caused the rudder to break off, forcing the plane to crash.  It later emerged that this was the way the pilots were being trained to handle the turbulence, and investigations showed that it was his use of the rudder that caused most of the turbulence and even what caused the rudder to break off.  Now I’m not trying to say that a large number of pilots are incompetent, but you do not know the condition of your particular pilot or the plane.  I also remember hearing reports a couple years ago about pilots drinking alcohol.  I think not knowing the expertise or professionalism of the pilot is a legitimate concern. 

Pilots have vastly higher standards they must achieve before being allowed to fly commercial airliners, and they are tested yearly. There is no comparison between the training a professional pilot must undergo and the training that one must undergo in order to get a license to drive a car.

Again, we’re talking about statistical averages here. Using individual examples of bad pilots is irrelevant. See also my next point, below.

thoswm - 11 August 2009 03:01 PM

However, there are some that aren’t that lucky.  Several years ago, there was a small passenger plane that crashed very close to my home.  Ice built up on the wings causing it to roll over and take a nose dive into the earth.  Those are extremely rare, but I think the uncertainty of not knowing when those freak accidents are going to happen legitimizes the fear.  Car accidents do have the possibility of being horrific, but they are far easier to predict.

Well, but when arguing statistics, individual examples are irrelevant. Indeed, when adverting to horrific events like these you are falling under the availability heuristic. This heuristic is an example of human irrationality; it does not ‘legitimize’ the fear. It may explain the fear, but explaining it does not legitimize it. The fear is illegitimate in that it implicitly overestimates the probability of failure.

And I don’t know what you mean about car accidents being easier to predict, except in the sense that they are more frequent.

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Posted: 11 August 2009 03:39 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 28 ]
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I haven’t paid much attention to this thread because the subtleties were probably beyond me, however, a possible example of an irrational rather than an uninformed statement may be, “God said it, I believe it, that settles it.”

Occam

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Posted: 11 August 2009 03:47 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 29 ]
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Occam - 11 August 2009 03:39 PM

I haven’t paid much attention to this thread because the subtleties were probably beyond me, however, a possible example of an irrational rather than an uninformed statement may be, “God said it, I believe it, that settles it.”

LOL Agreed!

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Posted: 11 August 2009 04:25 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 30 ]
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dougsmith - 11 August 2009 03:17 PM

Pilots have vastly higher standards they must achieve before being allowed to fly commercial airliners, and they are tested yearly. There is no comparison between the training a professional pilot must undergo and the training that one must undergo in order to get a license to drive a car.

Again, we’re talking about statistical averages here. Using individual examples of bad pilots is irrelevant. See also my next point, below.

Well, but when arguing statistics, individual examples are irrelevant. Indeed, when adverting to horrific events like these you are falling under the availability heuristic. This heuristic is an example of human irrationality; it does not ‘legitimize’ the fear. It may explain the fear, but explaining it does not legitimize it. The fear is illegitimate in that it implicitly overestimates the probability of failure.

And I don’t know what you mean about car accidents being easier to predict, except in the sense that they are more frequent.

Don’t these examples prove what is capable of happening?  These are rare, not once in a lifetime occurrences.  Pilots do have high standards but as I said, those pilots were trained to do that.  That wasn’t the result of a bad pilot, but rather bad training.  One could conclude that those events were not only capable of occurring again in a similar situation by a similarly trained pilot, but likely to occur again.  The fact is that there are air disasters.  Enough that there is a fairly consistent amount each year (although small and it does vary slightly).  Since a certain number of air disasters will occur each year (granted, not necessarily a commercial airliner), you have no way of knowing which plane will be the one.  If such a disaster was a once in a lifetime event, then I would agree with you.  I feel that it is rational to have a fear of something that could potentially kill you, but irrational for something with no factual basis.  Occam’s example was excellent in that sense.  My original examples fit this as well, such as a fear of puppies.  Being afraid that the sun is going to fall out of the sky or that you will ride a white horse to Heaven when Jesus returns to commit mass genocide, these are irrational.

In terms of statistics, I’m not looking at what probably will happen, but what could happen.  I’m pretty sure no one thought their plane would be hijacked and flown into the World Trade Center.  I know, I’m using another example, but I’m trying to provide evidence that air travel is far from perfect.  There are many factors which are involved.

Car accidents are easy to predict.  If you see someone speeding towards a red light, if people do not drive cautiously in the rain or snow, if it is foggy out, if you are at a blind intersection, if you see someone swerving or taking a corner too fast, if you’re sharing the road with teenagers texting on their iPhones, if a ball rolls into the road (you must assume a child is chasing it), etc.  These are things that all potentially cause accidents.  Given these conditions, you could reasonably conclude that you should probably drive with extreme caution and be ready to react.  If you do drive cautiously in these conditions and are ready to react, then you could potentially avoid the accident.

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