Reality, Probability, and Perception | Frankly #29
[ 21/April/23 ]
Very well done Nate.
I was the only person in my district of some 4,000 people fully prepared for the 7.8 earthquake that hit us 6 years ago. I was delighted in a sense, because all of my systems and preparations worked.
But what rapidly became very clear was that all my preparations counted as next to nothing if starving mobs were looking for food. My food that would last my family 4 months, would last the community about 1 meal.
The sheer visceral hatred directed towards my expressions of delight was a deep shock to me. Nobody else in town had anything remotely approaching my mindset.
I studied ecology 50 years ago. I was in the first undergraduate class on the planet to be taught the theory of plate tectonics. Suddenly I had an explanatory mechanism for biogeography. I started to identify scales, classes and frequencies of catastrophic events, and started to get a handle on their impact on evolutionary systems.
The Cuban missile crises had already given me a prime focus on existential risk, and risk mitigation strategies, and my autistic spectrum mathematical brain had me searching strategy spaces few have explored.
I made the conscious choice, 55 years ago, to become a generalist, to be able to integrate pattern and experience across all domains of knowledge, to the best of my limited and fallible abilities.
Most people seem to work from simple binary distinctions most of the time. The more stressed they are, the greater the class of binary distinctions present, and the less room for nuance and diversity and novelty. Humans under stress are blind to novelty, they mis-classify it. Few of us work from the sorts of probability distributions you so beautifully describe with consistency.
Most people, if they do pattern at all, do linear pattern. Few handle exponentials well, fewer still handle probabilities well.
Sometimes people need external forces to move them out of their patterns, before new patterns can form.
Scenario modelling is key to finding survivable futures.
And in most cases, timing is crucial.