16 stories
·
1 follower

Michael Lewis and the parable of the lucky man taking the extra cookie

3 Comments and 16 Shares

In 2012, Michael Lewis gave a commencement speech at Princeton University, his alma mater. In the speech, Lewis, the author of Liar’s Poker, Moneyball, and The Big Short, talks about the role of luck in rationalizing success. He tells the graduates, the winners of so many of life’s lotteries, that they “owe a debt to the unlucky”. This part near the end is worth reading even if you skip the rest of it.

I now live in Berkeley, California. A few years ago, just a few blocks from my home, a pair of researchers in the Cal psychology department staged an experiment. They began by grabbing students, as lab rats. Then they broke the students into teams, segregated by sex. Three men, or three women, per team. Then they put these teams of three into a room, and arbitrarily assigned one of the three to act as leader. Then they gave them some complicated moral problem to solve: say what should be done about academic cheating, or how to regulate drinking on campus.

Exactly 30 minutes into the problem-solving the researchers interrupted each group. They entered the room bearing a plate of cookies. Four cookies. The team consisted of three people, but there were these four cookies. Every team member obviously got one cookie, but that left a fourth cookie, just sitting there. It should have been awkward. But it wasn’t. With incredible consistency the person arbitrarily appointed leader of the group grabbed the fourth cookie, and ate it. Not only ate it, but ate it with gusto: lips smacking, mouth open, drool at the corners of their mouths. In the end all that was left of the extra cookie were crumbs on the leader’s shirt.

This leader had performed no special task. He had no special virtue. He’d been chosen at random, 30 minutes earlier. His status was nothing but luck. But it still left him with the sense that the cookie should be his.

This experiment helps to explain Wall Street bonuses and CEO pay, and I’m sure lots of other human behavior. But it also is relevant to new graduates of Princeton University. In a general sort of way you have been appointed the leader of the group. Your appointment may not be entirely arbitrary. But you must sense its arbitrary aspect: you are the lucky few. Lucky in your parents, lucky in your country, lucky that a place like Princeton exists that can take in lucky people, introduce them to other lucky people, and increase their chances of becoming even luckier. Lucky that you live in the richest society the world has ever seen, in a time when no one actually expects you to sacrifice your interests to anything.

All of you have been faced with the extra cookie. All of you will be faced with many more of them. In time you will find it easy to assume that you deserve the extra cookie. For all I know, you may. But you’ll be happier, and the world will be better off, if you at least pretend that you don’t.

You can watch Lewis’ speech as delivered on YouTube:

I wonder if hearing that moved the needle for any of those grads? I suspect not…being born on third base thinking you hit a triple is as American as apple pie at this point. (via @goldman)

Tags: commencement speeches   Michael Lewis   Princeton   video
Read the whole story
jheiss
13 days ago
reply
Well, as someone who was "born on third base" and is making decent progress on scoring a run (to keep up the analogy), I can tell you that there's at least one of us out here who is damn well aware that luck has played a significant part and does at least try to pretend that he doesn't deserve the cookie.
Share this story
Delete
2 public comments
kleer001
11 days ago
reply
Excellent! Don't forget to help your lucky friends come to the same realization.
dmierkin
12 days ago
reply
well put

Putin Hints at U.S. Election Meddling by ‘Patriotically Minded’ Russians

1 Comment and 3 Shares

Andrew Higgins, reporting for The New York Times:

Shifting from his previous blanket denials, President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia said on Thursday that “patriotically minded” private Russian hackers could have been involved in cyberattacks last year to help the presidential campaign of Donald J. Trump. […]

Raising the possibility of attacks by what he portrayed as free-spirited Russian patriots, Mr. Putin said that hackers “are like artists” who choose their targets depending how they feel “when they wake up in the morning. If they are patriotically minded, they start making their contributions — which are right, from their point of view — to the fight against those who say bad things about Russia.” […]

Perhaps worried that American intelligence agencies could release evidence linking last year’s cyberattacks to Russia, Mr. Putin also put forward a theory that modern technology could easily be manipulated to create a false trail back to Russia.

David Simon nails it:

This is a ridiculous fallback position, meaning: Cat’s out of the bag. We fucked up your election and left evidence.

Read the whole story
jheiss
20 days ago
reply
Reminds me of "Captured Russian troops 'in Ukraine by accident'": http://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-28934213
Share this story
Delete

★ Dropping Tech Giants

8 Comments and 10 Shares

Great interactive feature by Farhad Manjoo for The New York Times:

Apple, Amazon, Facebook, Microsoft and Alphabet, the parent company of Google, are not just the largest technology companies in the world. As I’ve argued repeatedly in my column, they are also becoming the most powerful companies of any kind, essentially inescapable for any consumer or business that wants to participate in the modern world. But which of the Frightful Five is most unavoidable? I ponder the question in my column this week.

But what about you? If an evil monarch forced you to choose, in what order would you give up these inescapable giants of tech?

Great question. I love thought exercises.

My order (from first dropped to last):

  1. Facebook. I love Instagram, but could live without it. I don’t use anything else Facebook offers.

  2. Microsoft. The only Microsoft product I use regularly is Skype, for podcasting, and I suspect I could find another solution. (If I couldn’t, I might have to rethink my answer here.)

  3. Amazon. I buy stuff from Amazon almost every week. I just counted — 11 orders so far in 2017. My wife buys stuff from Amazon even more frequently. But just about anything we buy at Amazon, we could buy elsewhere. It’d be painful to replace, but not irreplaceable. There are a couple of shows exclusive to Amazon Prime that I enjoy, but none that I love.

  4. Alphabet. I already use DuckDuckGo as my default search engine, so giving up Google search would be frustrating at times, but not a deal breaker. I use a few email accounts backed by Gmail, but I actually dislike Gmail, and have been procrastinating on moving all my mail to FastMail for years. I despise Google Docs. I don’t use any Android devices other than as a curiosity. I greatly prefer Safari over Chrome. YouTube, however, is irreplaceable, and so essential that it pretty much singlehandedly catapults Alphabet to #4 in my list.

  5. Apple. I mean, come on. If not for Apple I’d be stuck using computers I don’t like and a phone that I consider a distant second-best. With all the other companies on the list, what I’d miss most are certain of their services — Instagram, Skype, Amazon’s store, YouTube — but Apple is only company in the world whose hardware I consider irreplaceable. And you need the hardware to make best use of the services from any other companies.

Read the whole story
jheiss
41 days ago
reply
My ordering was Microsoft, Facebook, Google, Apple, Amazon.

I could easily live without or find alternatives to Microsoft, Facebook, and Google. Alternatives to Apple are less pleasant, but tolerable. Amazon would be hard for me to live without.
Share this story
Delete
5 public comments
toddgrotenhuis
35 days ago
reply
Switch 4 and 5, and you've got me.
Indianapolis
internetionals
39 days ago
reply
My order would be: Apple, Microsoft, Amazon, Aphabet, Facebook

The reason is pretty simple: you can go all Apple, all Microsoft or all OSS. Sure you might miss out on some fronts, but none of those options is unrealistic. Apple is clearly the easier to drop as lots of people I know use none of their products at all.

Amazon and Alphabet are trickier to avoid alltogether. For a large part because all the cloud offerings. But between those two Amazon is the easier to drop, because you can do everything they offer using Alphabet provided services, but not the other way around.

Interestingly, for me at least, dropping Facebook would be the hardest relatively speaking and I dont't actually use Facebook. The main reason, for me, is them owning Whatsapp. Staying in touch and sharing things with multiple persons would be a lot harder and you would have to convince them all to a specific other service.
Netherlands
wmorrell
40 days ago
reply
My ordering was identical to the NYT author: Facebook, Microsoft, Apple, Alphabet, Amazon. Though my reasoning included everything that depends on AWS; if it's just buying stuff and Kindle and Prime, then it's way easier to give up Amazon. Most service alternatives to the other four will have some dependency on AWS.
rtreborb
37 days ago
Amazon has silently made AWS an indispensable product, one likely used by most of the other 4 companies
onepointzero
41 days ago
reply
I believe DuckDuckGo uses Bing behind the scenes. Microsoft may be more useful than he thinks.
Brussels, Belgium
gglockner
41 days ago
Yandex - see bottom right corner
onepointzero
41 days ago
Indeed. My bad. It used to be Bing.
evaryont
40 days ago
It's both. Lately it seems to rely on Yandex more often than not, but it uses a melding of a bunch of providers and it's own limited scraping.
martinbaum
41 days ago
reply
"5. Apple. I mean, come on, I'd be unemployed."
duerig
41 days ago
Hahaha. So true.
mareino
40 days ago
Sadly, that is why I'd drop Microsoft last. I tried to use non-MS products a couple years ago as a test, and it was the closest I ever came to getting fired.

AirPods Still on a 6-Week Shipping Delay

1 Comment

AirPods are, in my opinion, the best new Apple product in years. I forgot to pack them on a recent trip (out to California for the Mac Pro roundtable), and using wired ear buds for a day made me love my AirPods even more.

But if you order them today, they’re still on a 6-week shipping delay. They’re either unexpectedly popular (like last year’s iPhone SE) or unexpectedly difficult to manufacture (or both).

Read the whole story
jheiss
64 days ago
reply
I'm about three weeks into a seven week delay on my order
Share this story
Delete

Snooooooow! Traaaiiiinnnnnn!

1 Comment and 3 Shares

When the first train rolls into the station after a big snowstorm, you’d best stand well clear. This was the Rhinecliff Amtrak station in New York.

Tags: this is a metaphor for something   trains   video
Read the whole story
jheiss
97 days ago
reply
If that woman avoided severe injury from a collision with that iron column she is very lucky.
Share this story
Delete

Relive the 1917 Russian Revolution through the voices of the day

1 Comment

Romanovs In Color

“1917. Free History” is a project that lets you relive the events of the 1917 Russian Revolution from letters, photos, videos, and texts written at the time.

The project consists entirely of primary sources. It includes not a trace of invention. All the texts used are taken from genuine documents written by historical figures: letters, memoirs, diaries and other documents of the period.

“1917. Free History” is a serial, but in the form of a social network. Every day, when you go onto the site, you will find out what happened exactly one hundred years ago: what various people were thinking about and what happened to each of them in this eventful year. You may not fast-forward into the future, but must follow events as they happen in real time.

“1917. Free History” is a way of bringing the past to life and bringing it closer to the present day. It is a way of understanding what the year 1917 was like for those who lived in Russia and in other countries. We have scoured archives and storerooms for texts, photographs and videos, many of which have never seen the light of day before.

For instance, 100 years ago today writer Maxim Gorky wrote:

The events currently unfolding appear grandiose, moving even, but the meaning behind them is not as profound and great as everyone takes it to be. I am trying to remain sceptical, although I am also moved to tears by the sights and songs of the soldiers marching to the State Duma. We can never go back, but we’ll not move much forward. A sparrow’s step maybe. A lot of blood will be spilt — more than has ever been spilt before.

Russian physiologist and Nobel Prize winner Ivan Pavlov wrote:

My assistant came in late today. He tried to explain that the revolution has halted all street transport. I believe that a revolution is no excuse for being late!

The image at the top of the page is Tsar Nicholas II with three of his daughters. Spoiler: he abdicates his throne tomorrow.

See also Who are you in 1917 Russia? (I ended up in the Democratic Right quadrant, just right of center.)

Tags: Ivan Pavlov   Maxim Gorky   Russia   Russian Revolution
Read the whole story
jheiss
99 days ago
reply
Same Democratic Right quadrant for me, about (3,-1)
Share this story
Delete
Next Page of Stories