A New Future Daily

Risk management and how to understand things.

super interesting read about risk management

some highlights I took:

  • here seems to be some probabilistic confusion,
    leading towards the so-called delay fallacy [13]: “if we wait
    we will know more about X, hence no decision about X should be made now.”
  • In front of potentially fat-tailed random variables, more
    evidence is not necessarily needed. Extra (usually imprecise)
    observations, especially when coming from the bulk of the
    distribution, will not guarantee extra knowledge. Extremes are
    rare by definition, and when they manifest themselves it is
    often too late to intervene.
  • An existential risk needs to
    be killed in the egg, when it is still cheap to do so. Events of
    the last few months have shown that waiting for better data
    has generated substantial delays, causing thousands of deaths
    __and __serious economic consequences.
  • More uncertainty in a system makes
    precautionary decisions more obvious
  • If you are uncertain about the skills of the pilot, you get off the plane when it is still possible to do so. If there is an asteroid headed for earth,
    should we wait for it to arrive to see what the impact will
  • By definition, evidence follows and never precedes rare
    impactful events.

How to understand things 

  • about a habit; once you proved a point, or solved something you have to go back and keep thinking about the problem and look for different proofs of the same thing. spend hours on this 
  • don’t accept answers that you don’t understand. 
  • thinking hard takes effort 
  • this needs intrinsic motivation 
  • It’s also so easy to think that you understand something, when you actually don’t
  • Thinking hard takes effort
  • But it’s not just energy. You have to be able to motivate yourself to spend large quantities of energy on a problem, which means on some level that not understanding something — or having a bug in your thinking — bothers you a lot. You have the drive, the will to know.
  • only you can run the constant loop of asking “do I really understand this?”
  • Feynman; The first principle is that you must not fool yourself and you are the easiest person to fool.
  • Writing forces clarity 
  • There are some mantra-like questions it can be helpful to ask as you’re thinking through things. Some examples:
    • -But what exactly is X? What is it? (h/t Laura Deming’s post)
    • Why must X be true? Why does this have to be the case? What is the single, fundamental reason?
    • Do I really believe that this is true, deep down? Would I bet a large amount of money on it with a friend?