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BTW, there aren't just four such shifts. If you looked closely enough, you could find many more. The evolution of multicellular life. The evolution of sex / genetic exchange. The first tools. Writing. All of these paradigm shifts changed growth rates, although the curve looks rather flat by today's standards.


The next shift may already have happened. It's called the Internet. But in 1860, nobody saw the burgeoning industrial revolution for what it was. In fact, by today's standards, it was still very inefficient and unproductive. But it created the paradigm shift by which new growth rates could be achieved.


Surely if you told the subjects that 90% or 95% of the cards were blue, they might hypothesize or stumble upon the optimal solution. So I wonder how high that number needs to be. Or would they still guess red 1 out of 20 times?


I know this is off-topic, but I want to bring up a point, and I don't want to wait around for the next Open Thread.

Ever since I read about prediction markets on this blog, and I read The Wisdom of Crowds, I became interested in both. And I watched Intrade.

I've especially watched Intrade over the last month. But what I came to realize is that Intrade doesn't know anything that any of us, individually, would not know.

A month ago, Obama was leading in the polls, and predictably, he was leading on Intrade. Then McCain got the "Palin bounce", he led in the polls, and he led (just last Tuesday) on Intrade. The new polls came in, Obama led, and once again Obama is up on Intrade.

Remember about a year ago when Hillary Clinton shot up to ~70% on Intrade and Robin asked "what does Intrade know that we don't know?" Apparently nothing, because she lost.

I'm not saying that prediction markets or the wisdom of crowds are wrong. I'm just saying that Intrade is not large enough, or something is wrong with it, to the extent that it has repeatedly demonstrated itself not to have any more information than the rest of us have.

So. Who's going to win? I can look at the latest polls and that's just as informative as Intrade has been over the last year (other than it's erroneous bubbles). So much for that.


We have so many regulators we effectively have no regulation (but lotsa transaction costs).

Well put, except it's not true. As we're seeing now, the inefficiency introduced by regulations is more than compensated by the investor confidence resulting from a stable market.

We're going to spend hundreds of billions of dollars to save potentially trillions in losses. $100 million of regulation and oversight, applied at the right time, could have done the same.


The story you describe is called a spiritual experience. Atheists can have them too.

"[O]ur existence is but a brief crack of light between two eternities of darkness." -- Vladimir Nabokov


"You can teach people Bayesian math, but even if they're genuinely very good with the math, applying it to real life and real beliefs is a whole different story."

The problem is that people do things, or believe things, or say they believe things for reasons other than instrumental truth.

Many people have done that throughout history. Homosexuals married and had children. Atheists attended church. While they may have had private disagreements that their closest relatives knew about, they were advised to keep quiet and not embarrass their family.

In fact, religion in America is something of an oddity. Here, you're actually expected to believe what you espouse. That is not the case throughout most of the world. People treat their religion more like an ethnicity or family tradition. They espouse things for social reasons.

In Europe, people call themselves Anglican or Lutheran or Catholic often without much thought to what that really means. When I, at the age of 12, told my European mother that I didn't believe in God, she responded, "What do you mean? You're Catholic!" As if that meant something other than the system of beliefs in question.

It's similar to the legend about the man in Northern Ireland who said he was an atheist. "But are you a Catholic Atheist or a Protestant Atheist?" was the reply.

In the Far East, the situation is even more complicated. Traditions like Buddhism and Confucianism are not mutually exclusive. And in Hinduism there are many gods (or many versions of one God, depending on who you ask). Each family "worships" a different God by invoking that God during various ceremonies. But if you attend the wedding of another family, you supplicate to that God, and you don't argue about it. You don't care. Your association as a Shiva-worshiping Hindu or a Vishnu-worshiping Hindu is ambiguous at best.

Likewise, I think that many intelligent and scholarly people who identify as Catholic (Ken Miller) or Jewish (Aumann) do so in just this (social) sense.