Dezembro 2023

Dezembro 2023

“You can’t have much in the way of deep thoughts when it takes seconds for an idea to percolate across your mind.” - Vernor Vinge (A Fire Upon the Deep)

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Psicologia Comportamental

Artigo do economista Robin Hanson sobre a opacidade de raciocínio como relevante barreira ao consenso.

Ergo, argumentos realizados de maneira nebulosa geralmente forçam a contraparte a discutir de forma viesada e visceral (system-1 thinking); enquanto o raciocínio claramente delineado facilita uma assimilação mais fluida e ponderada.

When others can show us their reasoning in enough local detail, we can often assimilate that reasoning into our thoughts, and thus their conclusions as well. When it works, this is the magic of conversation. But when we just see estimates without supporting inputs, we struggle to guess what inputs might have let them to these conclusions. Sometimes we can make good guesses, but quite often we cannot.”

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Ciência e Estatística

Sobre os perigos do uso indiscriminado da estatística na explicação de fenômenos cuja causalidade ainda está por ser descoberta.

“(…) That's why J. Langdon Down, the English physician who first described the syndrome in 1866, had no idea what caused it—he figured it was because the child's parents had tuberculosis. We didn't discover chromosomes until the 1880s, we didn't know how many humans had until 1956, and we didn't connect Down syndrome to having an extra chromosome until 1958.

The original Dr. Down could have spent the rest of his life trying to understand the cause of his eponymous syndrome and he would have failed. He could have run study after study and employed all kinds of statistical tests—not that they had been invented yet—and he almost certainly would have found something. It's not hard to happen across a significant p-value—a bit of confirmation bias, a hint of selection effect, some sloppy measurement, and bingo bango, you get p < .05, a statistically significant result. Then another researcher tries something similar and finds nothing, and that's not a failure; that's the beginning of a field!

(…)

We've made it farther than he did, but we are again stuck staring into a void that looks like randomness: we don't really know why some people end up with an extra chromosome 21. The National Institute of Health will tell you that it's because of a ‘random error in cell division.’ Well, things seem random before you understand 'em.

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Inovação

Um overview histórico e microeconômico da indústria farmacêutica. Aborda os primórdios wild west dos primeiros desenvolvedores industriais de drogas no século 20 e a sua coevolução com as agências reguladoras.

Oportunamente, também aborda a grande meta-questão que paira sobre o segmento: por que a curva de custos do desenvolvimento de novas drogas ainda possui formato oposto ao encontrado em indústrias ligadas à semicondução (Eroom’s Law).

A taxonomia (e desambiguação) do termo “inovação” e a má-aplicação do seu significado.

“Understanding that innovation requires passing a market test and that passing that test is immensely rewarding both for the creator and for society at large means that we can focus on how to make it happen. Obsessing over the mere novelties or inventions means we allocate resources which markets won’t reward. Misusing the term and confusing it with activities that don’t create value takes our eye off the causes and moves us away from finding ways of repeatably succeeding.”

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História

Sobre o abrupto colapso do império austro-húngaro no início do século 20 ao apagar das luzes da Primeira Guerra Mundial.

Viagem no tempo para um mundo perdido, e a quebra ontológica sofrida pelos membros daquela sociedade que, apesar da fácil identificação ex-post como um escombro de outrora, parecia tão estável para uma grande parte das suas elites intelectuais.

“(…) This multinational foundation was a leading fascination for those who nostalgically looked back after the country’s demise. One such writer, Joseph Roth, characterized Austria-Hungary as an empire of ‘hyphenated’ peoples. The hyphen was like a bridge between its many groups, he wrote in 1919, and when it disappeared ‘the Dual Monarchy was finished.’ Speaking of its capital Vienna, Stefan Zweig viewed the city as one that ‘harmonized all national and linguistic opposites in itself.’ ‘Free of narrow-minded prejudice,’ he glowingly wrote, ‘nowhere was it easier to be European’ — a place where ‘every citizen of Vienna also became a supranational, cosmopolitan citizen of the world.’

In some sense, Vienna and the greater empire were a microcosm of our globalized world today. When World War I broke out, the official proclamation came out in nine official languages: German, Czech, Polish, Ukrainian, Slovene, Croatian, Serbian, Romanian, and Italian. Joseph Roth himself spoke German, Yiddish, Polish, Russian, and French. The empire was also multifaith, the latest addition being Islam which was added as a state religion in 1912. Migrations and movements of people were common. By 1900, close to 40% of all Austro-Hungarians were living outside their traditional hometowns (heimat).

(…)

Today, we have seen an unraveling of expectations and an immense difficulty in imagining the future. So clearly are we, too, ‘lacking the concepts with which to absorb that which we experienced.’ Reading the literature of those who lived and lost is an antidote for the limits of our imagination and provokes us in asking, ‘what if it was all otherwise?’”

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Miscelânea

O relacionamento de Joseph Stalin com a literatura: Uma falsificação do comumente aceito link humanístico entre cultura e afeição interpessoal.

“Stalin did not lack empathy, then, for writers or their work. He grasped too — as censorious heresy-hunters still do not — that books acquire meaning and value separate from their creators’ beliefs. Defending the genius of the ‘reactionary’ Nicolai Gogol, he urged that ‘the world views of writers should not be confused with the impact of their works on readers’. Nothing in Stalin’s long, complex and sometimes subtle engagement with culture disproves the advocates of intensive reading as a highway to empathy. The flaw, rather, lies in treating that quality as a firm proxy for interpersonal goodwill.

(…)

Show me a society with a greater ‘psychologically rich literature’ than Russia. Now show me one that, in modern times, has brutalised its own people and its neighbours with more savagery. China, perhaps, or Germany? Both are also powerhouses of ‘psychologically rich literature’. Without the norms, laws and institutions to scale up private understanding into public civility, the solitary reader’s empathy will be, at best, an advantageous knack. After all, every low-grade swindler, conman and fraudster depends on a serviceable theory of other minds and how they work. And, if your milieu and your ideology impose no veto on mass persecution and state murder, the ability to mess with your victims’ heads simply adds another weapon to the oppressor’s armoury.

Perhaps the empathy that books deepen can only do collective good if a community — whether a household or a nation — decides to reward the sort of fellow-feeling that brings help and not harm to others. Whereas in the moral wasteland of Stalin’s Russia, the insight into other minds conferred by some of these 25,000 volumes served as just another manipulative tool of domination. Reading alone, could not make Stalin less Stalinist. If anything, his lifelong bookworm’s habits seem to have turned him — to quote his own formula for the writer’s role — into a more cunning and devious ‘engineer of human souls’.