Psyche: Availability heuristic 1


It’s impressive, how we are completely oblivious to most operations of our brain. We are made to learn about the functions of the physical aspect of the body. Close to everybody knows that there’s a small intestine and a large intestine. Which has as much practical significance as the turd within them. But, ask about the flaws and potholes in which your brain is bedecked with, nobody has a clue. It’s not the fault of the people. But, the nature of the flaw. The flaws are just so perfect that nobody is aware of the flaw.

This one is called availability heuristic. It’s a super broad term, but the functions of its lower terms are sort of the same.

BIASES DUE TO THE RETRIEVABILITY OF INSTANCES *

This struck me as a common thing that people are prone to. These are the situations in which people tend to assess the frequency or probability of an event by the ease with which instances or occurrences can be retrieved.

For example, when asked about the amount of people with diabetes in a nation. People tend to calculate the count for a nation, with the number of people that they know with diabetes. Which, superfluously might seem like a good way to calculate larger values. But, the truth lies that, diabetes is genetic and as more people in your family have diabetes, The more you would think the nation has diabetes. Which is bad because, due to your genetic lineage, you’ve undercalculated the health of a nation.

This is a more benign way of testing the more complex scenarios in which this might affect our judgements.

We’ll take another example. Remember the last time you watched a scary movie, and was afraid to go in the dark? well, what happens is that, the brain evaluates the risk of going into the dark, due to the high retrievable rate of the vivid movie image residues, as high risk of death by ghosts. Let the forgetting curve works its magic. within a week, you’re more confident to stride in the dark, simply because the retrievability rate has dropped low, since the images are now hard to retrieve.

If your brain could evaluate the probable risk of death by a ghost as high, rather than your years of evolutionary and personal knowledge. Think of the ways in which this might affect our judgements.

The general trend, seems to be that, people consider the world to be going in the wrong hands into an obvious dystopian future. This is an assumption that is primitively wrong, as I’ll illustrate later. The other is that, the newspapers and channels tend to highlight the more eye catching ones. What would you rather read, “A terrorist vandalism in Jammu and Kashmir.” or “world health average has improved 2%” ? The decision seems obvious. The more you read, the more retrievable it becomes, the more dystopian the world seems.

This is a pernicious loop, that we irrevocably are stuck in.

Basically, newspapers blind us to the obvious truth through all those murky, discursive descriptions. This seems to be the antithesis, of what the 655 Billion dollar news industry seem to aggrandize. This is a topic that requires a separate post all on itself. But the fact is that, the more you read, more ignorant and more tunnel visioned you become of the world.

Coming back to the retrievability of instances.

Is it possible then, to falsely change the opinion of the masses by making the data more available in their brains?

It is quite doable.

This is the basis on which the whole of the advertising industry works. The more you get your product in front of the people’s eyes. The more confident, they become of the product. That is why companies like, ‘Nike’, ‘Beats’, ‘Apple’ or ‘Oppo’ that spend aggressively on advertising are still making a killing. Simply because, they’re made to be more retrievable in our minds. More retrievable brand name means that we trust them more than, a new outlandish one.

This makes sense from an evolutionary perspective. Only the most retrievable can be trusted. Anything that is new should be detested and should be kept off as much as possible. And  we are very much the same, morphologically or otherwise from those days to this. This skepticism about all things new is the exact reason why we are still alive, and the Dodo is not. Dodos are very inquisitive creatures, That followed no skepticism and came very close to the invasive sailors, instead of cowering for shelter. This inquisitive behaviour continued, even after their own kin were being butchered. Its an elegant case of the lack of retrievability of  instances, leading to the extinction of a whole species.

As far as survival goes, this has helped us survive and stand on top of the food chain. But, this is a feature that we come preinstalled with. One, that can easily be reductive and cancerous to the growth of our perspectives on the world. And one that influences every single decision that we make. Now, the general opinion about national health, might not be so life altering. But, consider a scenario where you’re going to start a business. A single availability heuristic in the way you judge the demand of the product that you are shipping can make, or break your entrepreneurial success.

This is something akin to walking on thin ice, and  utmost carefulness is demanded.

Talking about the not so reductive future of the world.

Life expectancy is at an all time high of about 73%. More than ever in the 200,000 year history of humans.

life expectancy

Which means, death rate has dropped to an all time low of about 8 per every thousand people.deathrate

Terrorism has increased, obviously. Considering the extreme increase in population. implying that, there are more people to get hurt and more people with radical ideas.

terrorism

But, just wait before you start waving your, “The end is near” Flags and imagining every dystopian versions of the world in ruins. While the sudden spike might seem concerning and rid you of all  hope for a better world, consider this.

Last year, the British Royal Statistical Society (RSS) awarded its inaugural International Statistic of 2017 to ‘the number 69’ because this is the, “annual number of Americans killed by lawnmowers, on average – compared to two Americans killed annually, on average, by immigrant Jihadist terrorists.”

Though the number 34,572 might look pretty big, Its a mere ephemeral speck of dust in the perspectives of the rest of the things that are a threat to the world.
comparison

Diarrhea is a more imminent threat that needs more attention and concern, It kills roughly about 50 times more people than terrorism. Which is quite massive, and something that the media seems oblivious about.

I’m not implying that, Terrorism is something to be brushed off as insignificant. It’s very much a problem that should be given importance and requires looking into. But, just that Heart diseases kills 5,400 people for a single person killed by terrorism.

so, heart disease and diarrhea are a bigger and horrifying existential threat to our existence than terrorism.

The next time your mind evaluates the masked jihad with a machine gun as world’s biggest threat. Just remember the biases due to the retrievability of instances that you are prone to, and the brighter future the world is moving towards.

Peace.


In 1985, British musicologist Clive Wearing woke to find that his hippocampus has been sieved out, owing to Herpes Encephalitis. From that day forward, he was in a state of perpetual immediacy. Unable to produce new memories, always present in the sublime present. The historical incarnation of Leonard in the movie Memento. Wearing’s wife, recorded her unrequited love and her husband’s struggles in a book named, Forever Today.

Forever Today.

Those words capture the truly innate character of any part of a system that is at the very bottom. It signifies the inability to show development that is humanely significant. In this case, my village. Development is a word that is the faint echo from a distant future. That, almost never even barely shines in the remote corners.

Personally, I’ve barely seen any change in my village or the people or their living conditions. It’s not that, they’ve achieved a certain degree of exactness, that there is no more room for improvement. It’s just that, people are stuck in this hell hole with these really huge walls, that makes them short sighted to the actual world out there.

As I walk through my village, I recollect images of the same people doing the same thing almost a decade earlier. Close to nobody seems to care about changing their livelihood for the better or getting out of this void. They’re content with where they are. Thank their Gods (sometimes in brutal manners) for the things they’ve received, and carry on with their lives. Doing the same thing they’ve been doing for the past couple of decades.

This puts one in a truly emotional dilemma.

Especially one who believes, the ultimate goal of life is to be wealthy (unashamedly, me)

The content lives of these people is truly enviable. They seem to have accepted their respective positions in the social ladder, and are more than happy to play their part over a million times in the course of their lives. Which is not a condemnable character, that a judgemental person might perceive.

These people already have the ultimate sense of accomplishment that we hope to acquire through our unquenchable thirst for money and achievements. The top part of the Maslow’s hierarchy? These people have got it all covered. Unlike us, who chase the never attainable, illusioned state of a perfect being. Hoping to one day work up the hierarchy for the ultimate calling. Funnily, these people seem to solve the Maslow’s pyramid from the very top. Not the kind of thing, Abraham Maslow had in mind while designing this.

download

These kind of things, truly puts one at an existential crisis. What is the meaning of life?, when all you plan on doing is chase money, the rest of your life. When, all the peace you hope to attain is present right in front of you? can peace still be attained, when you know you could’ve done something more, yet do nothing? will I ever get the peace that these people, talking aimlessly, with no great ambition, with no illusion to chase ? Or is it the ignorance that seem to give their blissful happiness? If so, then ignorance is something you’re supposed to embrace?

Projects: LED cube. The Hardware.


Extremely long back. I saw this random video of an 8x8x8  which had these crazy animations that were mind boggling to me and I’ve always been wanting to create one of my own. Only problem being I’m just too much of a lazy douche to do anything.

A little while back, I decided screw this shit. and randomly bought like some 1000 LEDs and while it was on it’s way, searched around for the best way to build one. The best You can hope to help is this really long ass instructable.

They cover almost everything that is to know about this project. You might wanna be ready for a good long read.

Once, I got the LEDs delivered. I started to get on with it and started soldering the hell away. to be precise this has 1086 soldering joints all of which have to be quite reliably strong. Figured I’ll have loads of time to figure the rest of the circuits later.

Their design was also sort of simpler and effective than most that were provided online.

It took me about two hours to complete a single layer of LED

DSC_0062

Rinse and Repeat eight more times.

20 hours later, I had the required layers.

stacking each one took about another hour.

10 hours of absolute concentration and 16 hand burns later.

DSC_0002.jpg

Now there’s only the wire thing to be figured out…..

Sort of.

Cuz, I still have this Really complicated circuit architecture to figure out. Which I’ve been heavily procrastinating on.

and the spark of a moment appeared when I was in absolute despair. I could just use an Arduino to control all the 72 I/O ports in the cube. Only problem is, even the Arduino Mega has only 54 I/O ports.

After a couple days of  googling, I found people saying two arduinos could be made to be in sync Like the Master Slave system. So, had to buy them.

While they were on their way. I was struggling with the wire problem. See, cable management of this thing is ridiculously confusing. So, thought I’d use a 8 set male pin to connect all the wires.

Only problem was they had only like, 1 mm between them. within which I’d have to solder the wires, without touching each other. Which, after an hour of absolute agony. I did,

DSC_0014.jpg

It worked, sort of. After a couple while, the solder started breaking off. So, had to break them off myself. Enter really sad face here

I found my salvation in ribbon cables. They’re super easy to solder and pretty durable. I was done with the whole thing in couple hours.

Now, for something to fuel my overgrown ego,

 

Now, that everything that’s easy is done. I should just figure out what the animations are going to be. It’ll take me another bunch of weeks before I am able to do something that’s remotely acceptable.

Lessons learnt:

  1. Be prepared and Be clear about what you wanna do. Before doing it.
  2. Patience is a virtue and Haste gives you hand burns.

Entropy : Displays and disruption


There is something to be said about the exponentiality of technological advancements, that outdoes any that nature could come up with, by a factor of some millions.

Everything we’ve done to go against the gravity of things around us always leads us to something extremely more chaotic than where we started. One such intriguing thing is the advent of Displays. Displays have our lives, so much. Faster than fire or water or even the wheel where able to make an impact.

Let’s imagine the first displays. Which were probably the post world war I period the displays which were used to show pictures and cost a fortune to run. Enter, the nascent idea of moving images.

Capturing, Producing and Replicating reels is still a whole lot of pain in the ass. But, well worth it and displays start springing up in the rate of about one in every city. This truly replicable idea is an extreme boon to the art* industry. Because, now the same artist who could only perform for a hundred and fifty people could now reach thousands. Early adopters bagged queenly sums. More, the better.

Add some music and some gloss over it. It becomes the new normal to go to a theater and stare at the screen of rolling images for hours on end.

Enter, the Television world. The screens which were in the range of one per city. Started popping up in every household and it’s the imperatively normal thing to be watching a screen of useless chatter. Most of the time spent within the four walls gets attributed to this. The artists are better off now, because their job just went from adamantly unscalable to scalable to the nth degree within a bunch of years. Art becomes more mainstream. More, the better.

Add to this mix of tomfoolery, Steve Jobs’ crazy ass dream of putting a display inside your pocket. You have a civilization of people who keep art above everything else. A civilization of people, so torn between the internal, slow evolving animal and the fastest evolving technology grasping at your time spent, looking at the screen. Attention prostituting is the biggest of any industry outdoing everything in the market.

To scale up the content production area, which was being outdone by the content consumption rate. Everyone has to become an artist, everyone has to pretend their life is a debonair James bond movie. Everyone has to feel like they are part of an awesome narrative no matter if it’s filtered, faked or redid.

And that’s what my generation X has become, a constantly attention seeking, narcissistic, people. Living in a made up reality of lies to receive peer approval. It’s a void from which, none could be retrieved.

Notice, how the screens have become more closer and personal as time progresses. Screens are now at hand’s reach for about 2.5 billion people, more than one third of the world population. The trend continues with VR devices. Getting devices more closer to the eye.

I’m not an iconoclast of art. I think, art is a necessary But, today’s “art” industry is nothing but, whoring on people’s attention giving whatever buzz things people want to hear and believe. This has this useless way of tearing people astray from the actual material things, and more hipster-ish ideas, planting false beliefs and ideas inside people. And is more influential in the wrong sort of way.

It’s with, extreme cognitive consciousness, that one should tread on these thin ice of tipping over to the fallacy of hooked-on-device ecosystem.

*Art mentioned here is not the classical ones. But, the attention begging, eyeball grabbing Clickbaits. Which, includes most content that is being sold as art. From movies to YouTube to novels to self help books.

Learning: Tkinter & datetime


I thought I’d try to create a time counter using tkinter and datetime modules.

The idea was to get an input of the age and then calculate the age, with a live counter showing Hours, minutes and seconds.

The stupid that I am I just went straight ahead into the coding part, doing the “import …..” thing. Only to realize later that I knew absolutely nothing about both the modules. and I started randomly clicking away Urls to read and get a feel for it. After an hour and a half of Googling and reGoogling all related phrases that came to my mind. I was left more clueless.

Purely  by chance, I stumbled onto python documentation for datetime and Tkinter. And dismissed it as useless. I wouldn’t find a chair if it hit me in my face. I spent another fruitless hour of trying to tinker with the things I know. Somehow, got myself scrolling through my history, and rediscovered it. It is one goldmine of information it had almost everything that I needed and I got right into it.

Took me about six hours to complete this super simple program. Which looked something like this,

wasted time counter

Considering, That this is my first one, from the ground up. I’m not that embarassed of myself.

I created a github repo.

LESSONS LEARNT:

  • Always read the official documentation, before getting your hands dirty. It’s lot less of a hassle.
  • Random websites explaining stuff are mostly shit.

A Memoir of stupid things


For the past couple months I’ve been learning to program. I’m a complete clueless shit in computers because, The last time I actually used a computer was when I was 12 and I only knew how to play a bunch of flash games. Since then I’ve been completely oblivious to everything computers. Now that, that past has come to haunt me. I decided I should get this shit over with and started reading loads on computers. I was 19 and I still haven’t been in touch with a computer. (If you neglect the occasional movie watching in my father’s laptop. Which we’re not allowed to touch)

Finally, after much coercing and begging and pleading from my parents. I got this three years outdated dell laptop. I wasn’t complaining though. I was very VERY elated that I got one.

Now that I got one, I was completely clueless what to do with it and in this shit of a college that I am in, there’s no such thing as an Internet connection. I just read somewhere that the tribes in Amazon forests are using smartphones and internet.

Life is never fair.

So, I had to figure out a way to circumnavigate that. For which I had to write six letters to six different people. Giving them my motives and shit to connect with the lone wifi which was supposed to be a “Free wifi” zone.

Which took me about a month to wait for the right to people at the right time with the right answers.

That was over and I just got acquainted with this mystery world of youtube and social media. By which time I’d got a phone and a 1 Gig per month data plan. Which burned this really big hole in my monthly budget. But, was a treasure trove nonetheless. And I was caught up in the scroll and like world. Occasionally the thought that I should be doing something will peek from the sides. Which, somehow gets aligned with the time someone tagged me with some post, washing it all away.

After about six months of pausing and watching motivational videos. I was still nowhere near start. I decided to throw the social media away. And that’s what I did. More on that, some other time.

It was getting really boring to not do anything. So, i started digging into the programming thing and decided to learn Python. Purely because lots of people said it was easier than most. I decided to stick with it and I downloaded this .exe file. and installed in my computer which didn’t work. I searched a lot and there were no answers for pathetic imbecile questions. I had to work it all bottom up. I started downloading all the 9 something exe files and install it, check and uninstall if it doesn’t work. It took me about two weeks to install a single frikkin application that works. Now, that I know that there are two types of computers, 32 bit and 64 bit and one is not compatible with the other and there are types of exe files that install applications over the web or offline. Things are quite clear now.

After that I started following this book called “Learn Python the Hard Way”. I was like “bring it on”. Only to find out later that I didn’t know where to type the code. I was staring blankly at my computer screen the next hour. later found out that I need a text editor like “Notepad ++” to write the codes. and that took me another two days to install.

And I was following this book pretty seriously and spent at least two hours with the book for the next two and a half months. Which is probably a record because the author explicitly says it’ll take about two months to complete the book. That is, factoring in his slight exaggeration as an author, is in itself a really extreme limit.

I think that is mostly because of the complete stupidity of me. For example, there’s this command to initialize an object called “init“. It came in a piece of code for the first time and the thing just threw errors at all different places in the script. I was debugging and searching and reading for this for around fifteen days. without a clue. It took me a lucky visit from my Younger brother who suggested maybe that command has two underscores. I was like Impossible bruh and tried it. To no one’s surprise but mine it worked. Turns out computers are designed in such a way that when you type two underscores it concatenates them both together. Whichever genius thought of that. everywhere I looked they typed it out with two underscores and I read it as one.

within those period I got really interested in Machine Learning and all things tech. It turns out machine learning is mostly done in python. I felt as if the stars have given me the approval and thought I should learn about it. Started following deepmind’s blog and felt like a super human. Other people looked like mere mortals.

Just when I was reading about these things. I came across something that said “as of writing of this blog Python 2.7 is dead and the future is Python 3” and it was written in 2015 . It took me about four bars of chocolate to get me out of that state of shock. Turns out there isn’t that much difference between them.

I started reading random articles and How-tos on machine learning. And I was so into Google and its stuff that I was completely sure that Tensorflow is the only way to go. I still do think so.

Then came the uphill struggle of trying to install pip in my Python. pip is a package manager for python. which in itself is a package and requires to be managed manually. I was stuck with that thing for about three weeks. The more I read, more people said it was easy, the more confusing it got. after fifteen days I didn’t know what position I was in. So, I went to the old school elimination thing. which failed me miserably. Then I decided to go through this really long error message. Which was so big, it made “war and peace” look puny. I spent the next three hours reading all the error message even if they made absolutely no sense. My head was spinning, by the end of it. I slept on it and after a while it struck me maybe I should run this thing as an administrator or something? which is a thing that I somehow remembered from the days I was struggling to install python. which was about a year and a half back. and it all worked. I was so happy that day. which was three days ago.

The bottomline is dear reader (which is probably only me). Don’t try to learn something without at least some guidance. Some might say, I could’ve asked any of my professors. I invite them all to come and have a talk with my professors to gauge their intelligence, even a lab rat has a little bit more common sense than my namesake professors.

Why blog?


I’ve always thought of blogging as this thing that gets you to a vast number of audiences and all the cliche little concepts.

But, really it’s just a record of things.

And I intend to use this as such. I’ll (try to) write this blog consistently. And I don’t expect anyone to read it.

The most fundamental problem with, expecting that someone will read it and appreciate it. Is that, most appreciations aren’t really real and if we’re doing something for the appreciation and attention, then we tend to drift more towards the more appreciably awesome things and less towards the boring, not so appreciable things. More often than not, the not so appreciable, boring things are more important. Our dopamine system can override those and that can be unconstructive.

Expecting a pat on the back from someone for something we’ve done is something akin to the dog that wags its tail heavily trying to capture the attention of its master. Hoping that he’ll notice him. That’s not the kind of way that I want to do my things. I intend to get my things done not for the mere appreciations but for the sake of just doing it.

This blog will remain a repository of me and my thoughts. As long as I don’t feel too embarrassed of my younger self.