Phising for Phools – The Economics of Manipulation and Deception [Animated]

In this animation I share a few thoughts and take-home messages from reading Akerlof and Shiller’s book, Phising for Phools:

The Priming Effect – Animated Video [Practical Psychology]

This is another video in my Youtube series of developing critical thinking. Lots of stuff to work on (uhm, with respect to myself). But with time, I may improve 🙂


What I’ve Been Reading Recently – My Bookshelf #10

Reading a book at the beach

Intro

I read more than 70 books this year (as of August 2016). I don’t speed read. I allocate sufficient time every day to ‘parse’ books. I mostly read non-fiction. Some of the books are in audio format. Obviously I do not listen to textbooks and programming books. I choose the audio format for the non-technical and more practical ones.

My current interests: genomics, bioinformatics, machine learning, and human irrationality.

Additionally, for knowledge acquisition, I also:

– read research studies
– listen to interviews
– watch lectures and seminars
– take online courses

You can find all past book/reading related posts: #1 #2 #3 #4 #5 #6 #7 #8 and #9

Current philosophy:

The more I read, the more I realize the little I know.
Reading is not a hobby; it is part of my daily routine.
I avoid being superficial. I don’t want to skim through the books I read.
I read 7-10 books at a time.
I think that with practice I’ve been able to develop the skill of reading faster (!=speed reading).

10-Lecture Course on Science Based Medicine – And Alternative Practices

10-Lecture Course on Science Based Medicine - And Alternative Practices

Introduction

I started watching these lectures on Youtube about two months ago, a bit every day, slowing digesting the information and doing additional searches on the web whenever I found that a topic sparked my interest.

These lectures are presented by Dr. Harriet Hall, a retired family physician and Air Force Colonel. According to Skeptic:

“She writes about alternative medicine, pseudoscience, quackery, and critical thinking. She is a contributing editor to both Skeptic and Skeptical Inquirer, an advisor to the Quackwatch website, and an editor of Sciencebasedmedicine.org, where she writes an article every Tuesday.”

You can find more about Dr. Hall at SkepDoc.info.

I appreciate the work Dr. Hall and others are doing in informing the public about the perils of quackery. And from what I perceive from her work, she doesn’t only try to bring awareness about bad science in alternative and non-scientific practices, but also in conventional medicine.

Thus, I consider her a good example of impartiality. She takes on conventional medicine and its numerous inconsistencies in lecture 9. No matter the pitfalls of conventional medicine, I’d say that it’s better regulated and more science based (given that you can filter through poorly conducted studies – see lecture 9) than bogus medical practices and claims.

I recommend this course to people who want to become more educated in critical thinking and to those who want be less prone to being phished for phools. Here are the titles of the lectures and a few notes on each.

Baloney Detection – How to Distinguish between Science and Pseudoscience [A Short Guide]

Baloney Detection - How to Distinguish between Science and Pseudoscience [A Short Guide]

Introduction

“When we’re growing up (!and, often in adult life) we tend to be pretty credulous. We just believe almost anything that people tell us, especially if it comes from authorities, experts, textbooks, politicians, television, Youtube, and the Internet. I mean, there’s just this sort of sea of information coming at us. And how can you tell the difference between: it’s right or wrong? How do you know?!” Michael Shermer (emphasis mine)

There’s way too much misinformation ‘out there’. And some of it is on purpose – disinformation. Whether it happens on the Internet or within your circle of friends, family and acquaintances, you (and I) are being bombarded with non-sense ad nauseam.

Filtering through, to get some valuable information, whenever that’s possible, is not easy. For this purpose, Carl Sagan and Michael Shermer formulated what they call: a baloney detection kit.

It started with an essay written by Sagan a long while ago [2]. In it, Sagan advises people on how to avoid logical and rhetorical fallacies. Acknowledging the value of this manifesto, Michael Shermer devised a more accessible and easily readable format of Sagan’s words [1].

Pure, raw information is of immense value today. Most information that reaches your senses is coated with personal filters and prejudices; it is distorted, manipulated, or modified in one way or another.

Here, I want to reignite awareness on Sagan and Shermer’s advice, hoping that it will help us better filter through this mountain of non-sense and also help us stave off the bad influence of malicious parties.

Rare Things happen all the Time – Another Example of Deception

Rare Things happen all the Time - Another Example of Deception

Introduction

Far from the intent of teaching deception, I’m writing this to bring awareness to some of the practices of dubious entities towards the gullible masses. Most of what you’re going to read is not my original thought. It is from a recent book that I read. I will do my best to add some personal interpretation whenever I find it appropriate.

Perturbations in my Lifestyle – Letting go of Limiting Beliefs [A Journal]

Perturbations in my Lifestyle - Letting go of Limiting Beliefs [A Journal]

Introduction

I’ve been away from home for a month or so. As I left, I decided to alter several of my lifestyle factors to test which of them hold true. I want to be more flexible; I want to have more degrees of freedom and I want to steer clear from rigid strategies and fixated thinking. I want to be able to change things instantly without a significant negative impact on my wellbeing. Anti-fragile is a keyword.

Moreover, I am suspicious of several of my former held beliefs – some of which I’ve been following unquestionably for the last 2-3 years. My own lack of education could be the culprit. I took for granted different assumptions coming from conventional wisdom, from ‘experts’, or from self-entitled ‘gurus’.

Some of these strategies led to improvement in my life. But I really don’t know which. So, I’ll keep testing, stop holding beliefs, and start asking more questions. On to the point.

The Priming Effect – Your Thoughts, Friends, Environment = Future You

The Priming Effect - Your Thoughts, Friends, Environment = Future You - 2

Introduction

With my head stuck into Thinking Fast and Slow, the voluminous book by Nobel Laureate Daniel Kahneman, I started becoming more familiar with the field of behavioral economics. Kahneman discusses extensively about cognitive biases and automatic (unconscious) mechanisms that drive human behavior (unconscious to you and me of course – unless you are actively aware of them).

Such mechanisms may allow deceitful/scheming/manipulating entities to exploit us for different purposes.

Other biases may provide rationale behind personal development babble. One of them, the focus of this write-up, is the priming effect. It caught my interest and it made me read a few scientific papers about it. Over the last few decades the priming effect has received a cocktail of appraisal and criticism on behalf of the research community.

In short, “priming is an implicit memory effect in which exposure to one stimulus (i.e., perceptual pattern) influences the response to another stimulus.” (more)

How to Manipulate Statistics in Research – A Short Guide to Bad Science

How to Manipulate Statistics in Research - A Short Guide to Bad Science

Introduction

Today I’m not gonna teach you how to deceive. But, I’m gonna show you how statistics can be deployed for wrongdoing. In particular, I’m going to discuss a few methods that are often applied to research studies so that desired results are more easily attained.

The untrained eye (at least 90% of us) is unaware of such practices, mostly because of the lack of education in critical thinking, logical fallacies, math, and statistics. Hopefully, this will help.

I have learned about these strategies while reading Bad Science, a sobering and, at the same time, funny work by Ben Goldacre [1].

Goldacre shoots at the field of ‘nutritionism’ (or: over-complication of simple and sensible dietary advice) and at those who package sophisticated strategies – such as complex diets, detoxes, light therapies, the worship of one food or another, promotion of, so called, super foods, etc.

If you want to improve your health, things should be fairly simple: eat clean, exercise, sleep. This will get you at least 80% closer to your end goal. Then, you can use other fancy strategies to get even closer.

Step-wise Approach to Improve your Thinking Skills – 7 Books

Stepwise Approach to Improve your Thinking Skills - [7 Books]

Most of us assume we are reason-driven creatures; we assume we hold the power to each and every decision we make; we assume we are highly cognitive. I know I lived my life with these automatic assumptions until not so long ago. But as I learned more about the way our brain works physiologically and as I became aware of its inborn flaws and fallacies I gradually stepped away…

Daily life is mostly driven by habits. Little consideration is put to active, careful decision making. Metacognition (thinking about thinking) is something that mostly nobody is familiar with. Logical fallacies rule our lives. No, this is not the most pessimistic scenario I’m trying to paint here. This is something that we must be aware of.

For now, I’ve put up a list of seven books that should initiate you into the process of becoming a better thinker, of improving your cognitive abilities. These books help me tremendously; and I have a feeling they may serve you to the same purpose. This list is not exclusive as I may add more titles in the future:

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