Friday, November 20, 2020

Pascal's Wager and Covid-19

 I can't be the first to have thought of this...

Pascal (yes, the Pascal) wasn't sure if he should believe in God or not. He pointed out that, if people were right about eternal damnation, then the consequence of not believing was hugely expensive but behaving as if there is a God is relatively easy. Based on that logic, such as it is, he decided it was best to believe. 

Wikipedia puts it this way:

Pascal argues that a rational person should live as though God exists and seek to believe in God. If God does not actually exist, such a person will have only a finite loss (some pleasures, luxury, etc.), whereas if God does exist, he stands to receive infinite gains (as represented by eternity in Heaven) and avoid infinite losses (eternity in Hell). From:

For those who doubt various data that the Covid-19 virus is dangerous, Pascal's Wager seems like a really good approach. The consequence of being wrong and behaving in a way that causes you to contract the disease can be severe. And, worse than Pascal's dilemma, if you are wrong, you are also likely to hurt those closest to you. On the other hand, the cost of wearing a mask is pretty cheap. 

I just checked and I'm not the first to have thought of this parallel. Here is a longer version of what I'm saying but perhaps more clear as a result of the extra words:

Saturday, October 31, 2020

 My newest (and only!) analytical page is very much an experiment in progress:  

I thought I had figured out that more left- or right-leaning news sites tended to have higher "emotional" scores. When the "see" page was only tracking the Washington Post, Fox, The Wall Street Journal, and the New York Times, the scores on the graph pretty much reflected those expectations. Now that I've included 4 more sites, the scores no longer match my expectations. Time for a new theory, maybe. Or maybe humans are just not as easy to pigeon-hole as we'd like to think. Anyway, I plan to keep working on it. My goal is to automate the analysis of sites against various interesting measures, and automate in such a way that human bias is hard to inject into the process. (And I said "hard," not impossible. Bias is extremely hard to avoid completely.)

Monday, August 24, 2020

Overshoot Day

 Happy Belated Overshoot Day!

 Overshoot Day is a concept that illustrates how humans are using more resources than can be sustained. According to the Overshooters calculations, we'd need about 1.5 Earths to remain sustainable. There are criticisms of the methods of calculation but I think the illustrative value of the concept is undeniable. And sufficiently depressing to be included here. :) 

These are some good links that discuss it:

Friday, August 14, 2020

Voting with your feet

We are all tiny dots contributing to one huge mass.

As the population of the world gets larger, our individual actions have an ever-smaller impact on the sum of our behavior. Our personal decisions such as whether to recycle trash or cut electricity usage become a smaller percentage of the problem--or the solution. But as population increases and resources are stressed, those tiny, incremental actions of each of us becomes ever more important. Our footprints become more and more microscopic on the global scale and yet all those tiny footprints add up to a larger and larger global impact. Individual significance decreases as our global significance increases. Odd.

Friday, July 10, 2020

Two different worlds

I've recently been engaged in a political conversation with my brother-in-law. We are on different sides of the political spectrum. While trying to understand how we could have such different world-views, I put together a web site that helps me keep an eye on the headlines from two conservative-leaning papers and two that are, from a conservative viewpoint, left-leaning. Check out It isn't officially in production yet and maybe never will be. But I find it interesting and useful.

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

from an interactive display at ArtecHouse in DC       
Somewhere on the Outer Banks, NC, near the Pea Island bird sanctuary, I think

This post was updated in 2020 so you can't really trust the blogger Post date of 2018. Good to know when getting one's info from a blog posting.

Friday, February 9, 2018

This is to test use of images.

Someone feels special!
Obligatory pessimistic quote:
We all overvalue what we know and undervalue what other people know.