The real world is too hard to figure out, so we need to give each other a break

 
Poldano
 
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Poldano
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21 January 2021 05:42
 

An article that popped up in my browser.

https://psyche.co/ideas/the-mathematical-case-against-blaming-people-for-their-misfortune?utm_source=pocket-newtab

...arguably, he took a calculated gamble when he purchased a risky asset, and so some of us might be tempted to blame him for his own misfortune. According to one school of thought, when these sorts of bets don’t pan out, only the gambler is to blame. That might sound callous, but it’s indeed the attitude that many of us seem to hold, at least in the United States: a 2014 Pew Research report found that 39 per cent of Americans believed that poverty was due to a lack of effort on poor people’s part. When ‘effort’ includes an inability to properly weigh up the risks inherent in a decision, this suggests that, in the end, many of us think that people are responsible for their own bad luck. ...

... Rather, insights from complexity science – specifically, computational complexity theory – show mathematically that there are hard limits on our capacity to make accurate and precise calculations of risk. Since it’s often impossible to get a reasonable sense of what will happen in the future, it’s unfair to blame people with good intentions who end up worse off as a result of unforeseen circumstances. This leads to the conclusion that compassion, not blame, is the appropriate attitude towards those who act in good faith but whose bets in life don’t pay off. ...

...

Here’s where computational complexity theory kicks in. It turns out that learning the causal structure of real-world systems is very hard. More precisely, trying to infer the most likely causal structure of a system – no matter how much data we have about it – is what theorists call an NP-hard problem: given a general dataset, it can be fiendishly hard for an algorithm to learn the causal structure that produced it. In many cases, as more variables are added to the dataset, the minimum time that it takes any algorithm to learn the structure of the system under study grows exponentially. Under the assumption that our brains also learn by running algorithms, these results apply to human reasoning just as much as they apply to any computer. ...

 
 
EN
 
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EN
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21 January 2021 08:53
 

Trying to determine consequences of one’s actions is akin to predicting the future. There is just no telling what might happen. Looking back, the best decision I ever made was to go to law school.  But it could have turned out horribly wrong. I might have taken a case that got me disbarred and that would have put me on a completely different track.

 
burt
 
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burt
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21 January 2021 09:28
 
EN - 21 January 2021 08:53 AM

Trying to determine consequences of one’s actions is akin to predicting the future. There is just no telling what might happen. Looking back, the best decision I ever made was to go to law school.  But it could have turned out horribly wrong. I might have taken a case that got me disbarred and that would have put me on a completely different track.

You pays your money and takes your chances. My brother tells me that one his best ever decisions was not going to law school. I told him not so, had he gone to law school he would now be a famous lawyer with connections in high government circles. He replied that yes, not going was a great decision.

In 1992 I had a sudden realization that back in 1970 I’d made a life-changing decision without having a clue as to any of the real factors involved. It was a depressing realization—not that I was unhappy with the way things had worked out, rather that I could have made that sort of decision in a state of complete ignorance.

 
Jefe
 
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Jefe
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21 January 2021 09:55
 

Wouldn’t it be nice if our education systems were set up to help us succeed at, at least some of, these complex analyses?

 
 
EN
 
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21 January 2021 10:27
 

First you have to get young people to even THINK about consequences. Everyone is so hyped up on instant gratification that cause and effect don’t even get a chance to introduce themselves. By the time I decided to finish my education, I was old enough to at least consider my future.

Making choices that present you with multiple avenues of selection afterwards seems a fairly decent strategy.  If I choose to get an advanced degree, I’m going to have a lot of options at my fingertips.  If I choose to do crack, not so much.

But to the OP, agreed that we need to cut people slack.  I’m not sure any of us can really claim to have control over our choices or the consequences thereof.

 
Skipshot
 
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Skipshot
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21 January 2021 11:38
 

Machiavelli (yes, THAT Machiavelli) wrote that life is 50% planning and 50% luck, and examples abound.  Sure, we are better off making plans, but even going to the grocery store with a list does not guarantee you will come home with the items, or even come home.  Making plans is usually betting that something good will happen, but 50/50 is not a good bet, so compassion is appealing to our better side.

 
Jefe
 
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Jefe
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21 January 2021 11:39
 
EN - 21 January 2021 10:27 AM

First you have to get young people to even THINK about consequences.

Seems like this would be a great start to the training/education program.

 
 
Cheshire Cat
 
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Cheshire Cat
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21 January 2021 11:41
 

Look at the changes that have happened in just one year — a virus appeared out of nowhere, spread like wildfire across the globe, and is now devastating national economies, businesses, families and individuals.

Outside of a handful of specialized epidemiologists, no one would have predicted where we are now.

There is an element of randomness and unpredictability at the very core of existence.

“We must live within the ambiguity of partial freedom, partial power, and partial knowledge.”
— Sheldon B. Kopp

 
 
deodand
 
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deodand
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22 January 2021 03:08
 

That’s a curious article.  While I agree with the general moral point of compassion over blame, he has an unusual way of establishing it. 

He says: “The bar for blameworthiness can be made more precise by saying that, in order to be blamed for a gamble, people must possess an accurate causal model of the system in which they act.”  Why set the bar at an accurate causal model?  A gamble presupposes not having an accurate causal model; that’s why it’s called gambling, and whether to blame or feel compassion for a gambler should rest on how good his probabilistic model was, and how affected by factors like ambition and other virtues or vices, not on the fact that it’s not causal.  True, “learning the causal structure of real-world systems is very hard, ” but it’s how one acts in the face of uncertainty, not certainty, that determines moral worth. 

Whether to “blame” (I’d prefer “hold responsible”) Chow for his decision or to have compassion for him (I don’t see these as exclusive options) seems to rest on what he chose to risk relative to the uncertainty he faced, not whether he could or could not have, by the limits of cognition, an accurate causal model.

 
icehorse
 
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icehorse
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22 January 2021 19:07
 

What came to mind when I read the OP was to look at it from the perspective of regrets. I’ve made some WHOPPER SIZED mistakes in my life, and I occasionally find myself thinking about them and regretting them. But honestly, what I regret more are missed opportunities to explore or have some fun.

 
 
weird buffalo
 
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weird buffalo
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22 January 2021 23:35
 
Cheshire Cat - 21 January 2021 11:41 AM

Look at the changes that have happened in just one year — a virus appeared out of nowhere, spread like wildfire across the globe, and is now devastating national economies, businesses, families and individuals.

Outside of a handful of specialized epidemiologists, no one would have predicted where we are now.

There is an element of randomness and unpredictability at the very core of existence.

“We must live within the ambiguity of partial freedom, partial power, and partial knowledge.”
— Sheldon B. Kopp

Epidemiologists did predict this happening.  Sure, they didn’t predict this exact disease, but the Obama administration had hired epidemiologists to help build a pre-emptive strategy to be prepared for exactly what happened last year.  That infrastructure was dismantled by the Trump administration.  But the core point is that specialists in how diseases spread through populations have been worried about this happening for years and have learned a lot from SARS, MERS, and ebola.

 
unsmoked
 
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unsmoked
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26 January 2021 09:43
 

The Road Not Taken
BY ROBERT FROST

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;

Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim,
Because it was grassy and wanted wear;
Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same,

And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way,
I doubted if I should ever come back.

I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.