Thursday, August 4, 2016

- Coping With Bias

Every once in a while I make the mistake of arguing with the wrong people. Some people, particularly online, have their world view and they will not change it. They are right, you are wrong, and all the evidence in the world won’t change their mind. Normally this doesn’t bother me. I don’t know all that much about politics or winning elections or whatever, so I tend not to speak in absolutes on those topics. But when I’m talking about something where I possess some expertise, it can get under my skin a little.

I got into one of those debates in the comments section of a Kevin Williamson article recently, pertaining to “what people do”. There was someone arguing on a tangent that it was the evil derivative guys who caused the problems with America, and I countered. Derivatives are my thing. I know and understand them fully, and worked in the industry at a pretty high level for nearly 3 decades, claiming some limited success. (I'm not a billionaire, but I did OK.) No one with any knowledge in the field will argue that I am an expert, in fact, if they’re an expert, we may already know each other. If I’m talking to a farmer about farming or an anesthesiologist about anesthesiology, I’ll defer to them. On this topic it’s a safe bet to defer to someone like me.

But when you try to talk about it, you get some people who think that professionally managing an investment portfolio is the same as what they do when they invest in the stock market, so they know as much about it as you do. If you refer to things they don’t understand they accuse you of using ‘mumbo jumbo’. If you simplify it, they either pick apart the inaccurate semantics of your analogy or they accuse you of not knowing what you’re talking about. If you go back to specifics, then they accuse you of trying to insult their intelligence. There is really no winning.

There is really no comparison between managing a large investment pool (say 100 million or more) and managing a personal account, and the evidence of that abounds. There are different issues to address, different ways of addressing them, and different metrics for determining success or failure. But the people who don’t know that don’t know what they don’t know, and you can’t explain it to them because they are so certain you operate from a basically immoral position. These people are more interested in winning an argument than being correct, and that frustrates me sometimes. I left Freerepublic years ago for this very reason, and have for the most part managed to avoid discussions like it since.

So what’s my point?

I read an article someplace that talked about how “Trump has spent the last 3 days arguing with a gold star father”. But I detected a whiff of the stuff I just talked about when I read it. I don’t know for sure, but I doubt very much that Trump spent the last 72 hours worrying about nothing else, and I’m perfectly willing to wager that it’s only the media that has obsessed over it. Maybe he tossed out a comment here or there, but the media only ever heard the part of the conversation they wanted to. That’s their shtick. Trump says 1,000 words 3 of which will generate a controversy negative to his campaign, and that’s the only 3 words they hear. They couldn’t be convinced that Trump was doing something right, no matter how much evidence is provided, and all we ever see, is their pre-established view that he’s a horror.

So what’s Trump actually doing? I don’t know. I’ve never participated in an election. Is he doing it well or poorly? I don’t’ know. Is he being effective or wasting time? No idea. All I know, is what the media tells me. And that goes for all the media, not just the anti-trump majority. His fans probably don’t know what’s going on any better than his opponents. Some of these journalists may know something about elections (but having met many journalists I’d have to bet against them knowing anything at all) but right or wrong, they say they are certain of things. But as certain as they may sound, they’re all just telling you how they themselves feel, and aren’t really telling us anything about what’s actually going on. That, to be perfectly technical about it, is what bias is. Bias fills in the gaps when knowledge and understanding end.

Trump is definitely outside the box. Whatever he’s doing, and whether he can be effective doing it, I think is something no one really knows. I really believe it’s as much a mystery to the people who tell us they’re certain of the outcome, as it is to someone like me.

Hillary on the other hand, is a known quantity. She’s an unethical, thoroughly corrupt, brittle and unlikable candidate. What I think she needs to do to win is to stay the hell away from the press and convince people to vote for the idea of Hillary instead of the actual Hillary. No one likes the actual Hillary, but on paper she can be sold to the least informed portion of the electorate. That I think is her plan.

But she’s a Presidential candidate. So it can’t all be puff pieces about her saving cats from trees until election day. Not without the media being willing to sacrifice themselves for her sake. She will be fine with it, but there will be a point where the NYTimes and NBC will decide that even they can’t stay away from her. She will be in the public eye, and when she is, enthusiasm for her will dissipate.

It’s still a horse race here guys. Very much so. It may very well end with more disappointment for the right, but calling it settled is premature.

1 comment:

chess said...

She follows my advice about the 2 thumbs really well. If trump is whacking himself in the head with a hammer she aint gonna take the hammer away. However every now and then she has to do this....