LuxAurumque

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Optimizing your Social Network

I think this is an incredibly interesting topic that has yet to be really deepened--for example, it's not just about how many friends/followers you have, but also about how much use you make of them. Having sample sizes of 300-400 people is enough (assuming random populations) to run some small statistical surveys about issues and ideas. A big way I've found to engage friends online is to post moderately interesting studies/articles/ideas from different areas on your own page. This allows for people who have those differing areas of interest to have a reason to look at them.

As far as gaining followers/friends, I don't think it's as much joining clubs and doing things as it is doing things that have as little overlap as possible. I have over 1000 friends (at least, according to Facebook!), but it's because my main areas of interest (skating, academia, gaming, theater) all have relatively small overlap. Contrast this to people I know with far fewer friends but work on more areas than myself.

An exercise in really going through with it

Interesting, although I've always wondered what the value would be of preserving an older individual (I'm assuming s/he's on the old side). Maybe I'm simply not well-versed in medical advancements, but it seems the problem of reviving a cryonic (if that is the term) is a completely different problem from reversing the aging process, or in short, preventing death entirely. Of course, there could be large overlap with the advancements, just my two cents.

Andrew Gelman on "the rhetorical power of anecdotes"

There may be some severe overlap between confirmation bias and fictional evidence generalization, but then again, the entire point of an anecdote, real or fake, is to establish something that you've already taken to be true and demonstrate it in a more accessible lens. I don't mean to say that the studies people run in addition to anecdotes have no weight, but, for the most part, when assessing a situation or a point, we tend to self-select the anecdotes most useful to whatever we originally believe, and those tend to stick with us more often than the exact studies which have actual weight in demonstrating the argument

Learn a foreign language to reduce bias?

True. It might be possible by seeing how language changes over time in comparison to what evidence of cultural change we have, but it might also be a lot of speculation. In either case though, the frame of the language still arises such that it is significantly different, and you have to work your way through the frame before you can feel comfortable communicating in the language.

Learn a foreign language to reduce bias?

Someone here will probably know this better than I do (unfortunately :( ), but I believe there have been a series of studies done on the interplay between language and culture within certain countries--that certain constructions within the language allow for the development of differing types of cultural standards. The example that is coming to my mind is a language like German when compared to English. In English, you tend to be able to interrupt people more often, because you know where a sentence is going (You can go fuck--), whereas in German (I believe), since verbs come at the end (you yourself can go fuck--I know this isn't how it would be set up exactly), you can't interrupt nearly as much. Perhaps there is some ground in the idea that since learning languages forces you to subconsciously accept new modes of communicating, your way of looking at rational choice changes.

Of course, there's probably also an effect of simply needing to be more rigorous in a language that's not your own. My ability to be lazy in English is in part because I've spent a lot of time in this language and feel comfortable assuming things that I probably should not be. Whereas if I began to learn Mandarin, I would have to think about everything I say and do.

How would you take over Rome?

Do I have to take it over? Can I not just use my body of knowledge to churn out technology and Enlightened thought to (hopefully) allow humanity to skip a couple hundred years' worth of religious intolerance, and ignorance of rational thought?

[Link] Research on Christian deconversion

Keep in mind that the authors do admit this study to be not much more than a collection of anecdotal statements. While it's certainly interesting, be wary of using these stories to generalize about Christian deconversion.

I'm not really surprised about the reasons they found--while I do not have any serious experience with Christians, I would expect their relationship with God to be treated like any other. What good is a personal relationship if it has to be intrinsically different from any other relationship you have?

[draft] Generalizing from average: a common fallacy?

It's on this kind of thought process that I have issues with statistics being used by people who don't really understand them.

I'm not trying to get on a high horse and exclaim that the common people shouldn't cite studies and stats, but if you are going to cite them, cite them fully. More often than not, by adding a standard deviation and median to an average, you get a picture much closer to what is actually occurring. But even after that, there are other tests which can yield a whole bunch of information that could be more useful towards refining the picture.

I guess if you are going to cite a study, you should take the time to read through the math people tend to skip over, or at least, read all of the conclusions drawn from the math, and not simply mine reports for the facts that happen to work for your argument.

Ethics and rationality of suicide

My main problem with suicide is that more often than not, rationality is not employed in the decision to commit the action. Most people who attempt suicide and fail regret the attempt almost immediately after jumping off the bridge, or taking the pills, or cutting their wrists. A depressed person is not necessarily the best, unbiased judge as to whether his life is futile.

As for the role of suicide in society, it may be an issue, but there seems to be little we can do about it. If a friend of mine comes to me saying he feels suicidal, my first call will be to a licensed professional. Obviously not all feelings of committing suicide are instincts we will act upon, but most individuals follow the "better safe than sorry mantra." Otherwise, we risk our friends becoming mere stats chalked up to the bystander effect.