Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Posts Tagged ‘behavior’

Please listen to this file. It’s called the Shepard Risset glissando.  It’s very unnerving to me.

If I were to put sound to  various cause and effect data trails from complex systems (like human behavior), I imagine it would sound a lot like that.

  • What is the cause/are the causes and effects of human behavior?
  • is stimulus a cause?
  • is it an effect?
  • can a behavior be a reinforcer at the same time as being reinforced?
  • Are schedules of reinforcement causes AND effects?  are they exhausted from the behavioral system as much as they are determinants?

Perhaps these questions are just Saturday afternoon philosophical/blog musings.  However, I do think the strange loopiness of animal behavior (humans in particular) is what makes almost all models of behavior inconsistent and mostly wrong.  Or maybe just my understanding and application of them is wrong.

I have another question.  Human memory is not like computer memory.  it’s definitively fuzzy… so…

is there a difference between remembering  the past inaccurately or predicting the future inaccurately?

in both cases aren’t we just modeling context/situation/filling in details based on limited inputs?

and the biggest question is… DOES ANY OF THIS HELP UNDERSTANDING?

for fun, more about strange loops here and here.

Read Full Post »

The last 7 days of Internet blogging and searches have been dominated by Ponzi scheme debate and definition.

For reference, here’s Google Trends for Ponzi/Ponzi Scheme vs. Britney Spears.  I use Britney Spears as a proxy for actual volume because she’s been a top search term for 8 or 9 years.

Ponzi Searches on the Web

Ponzi Searches on the Web

On Time.com blog, Curious Capitalist, we see the commenters and the author trying to define and assign “good” and “bad” judgments to what happened with Madoff and what’s happening with Social Security.

The problem with all the debate, like many important debates, is that we’re arguing about definitions and phrasing, instead of analyzing the real issues and behavior.

Whether Madoff was running a Ponzi Scheme or whether social security is some enlightened version of one is irrelevant to what we do about the behaviors contributing to the financial mess we’re in.

In almost all the current financial situations (Social security, housing, credit slump, Madoff…), the contigency management is very inefficient.  The rewards and punishments for taking on big risk are many degrees removed from the risky behavior.  The reinforcers produced by the situations get lost in translation between computerized trading, industry memos, and the media.   We’re rewarding behaviors in one context and punishing them in another (spending without transparency – the bailout- is OK, but it isn’t OK for these businesses… which is it?)

The rules are not clear at all and so no one can play by them.

You can’t call any of this irrational either.  it’s perfectly rational to keep investing and spending when you get reinforced (returns on investment) over a long period of time.  You come to expect those returns and habituate to the risk involved in investing in companies, financial products and services that don’t have defined outcomes.  You can’t totally blame the originator of these investment vehicles either as people keep investing, further reinforcing the behavior of the originator.  (I’m simplifying a bit here).

Consider the life of Ponzi. (Find better sources than Wikipedia, but this will do for now because it’s online)  His history can be interpreted in many ways.  What strikes me is how it builds behavior by behavior.  All along the way as people wonder, they continue to make him rich, provide for him, write about him.  Even until his death he still found work, press and basically what he needed.  So, was it a character flaw in his gene code that created the great mail fraud, or was it the contingencies all along the way?

What’s to think this scenario, now played out with Paulson, Madoff, AIG… isn’t going to be played out again and again when we don’t change the environment?  The actors in this play are irrelevant pieces.  It’s the environment (the media, the surrounding people, the culture, the financial system..).

Do I have an answer? No.  You have to chip away by managing contingencies both with your own life and the wider public.  There’s no one set of rules or one policy or a perfect economic system.  We have to constantly pay attention and adjust.

Read Full Post »

Data once was a signature, a number on a driver’s license or even a newspaper subscription. Now it is much more but less of what you are used to accounting for. Digital information is today recorded by all manner of sensors you are not aware of and don’t see the consequences of. The new reality is data ‘Reality Mining’.

From phones, GPS units, RFID tags in office ID badges, texting, scans of your car through toll booths, credit card activity at ATMs, stores, gas stations, phone call tower identity, sensors are capturing your behavior in a digital form. Coupled with arguably suspect ‘secure’ anything digital including health information, income statements and Web surfing time, place and duration, the data organization and mining has birthed the emerging field of “collective intelligence”. Welcome.

All that digital information is going to servers and reformatted in data bases are as viral as anything you and a person with a lot of letters after their name can even imagine. And we are adolescents in this development.

A thick web refers to what our ubiquitous use of the web has brought us worldwide; data, tetra-terabytes of it daily. Collective intelligence practitioners acknowledge that their tools will create a sci-fi future on a level Big Brother on cocaine could not have dreamed of. In fact that is, the ‘thing’ about what is going on; we have no idea how we, our families, company, city, nation are going to be impacted as this approach to information finds every nook and cranny of everyone’s life. Stopping it is not an option.

Collective intelligence will make it possible, not probable, for insurance companies, employers, pharmaceutical companies to use data to covertly identify people with an identified gene, profile, affliction, etc., and deny them insurance coverage, employment or bank loans. They can also use it to snuff out an epidemic just as covertly. I wonder where the value of this will be positioned? The government through their budgeting selections can assist law enforcement agencies to identify opposition member’s behavior by tracking scanning, tracing public and private social networks (our old friend the Patriot Act has morphed while we worried about our 401K and “the wars”).

“Pernicious” means exceedingly harmful. Pernicious implies irreparable harm done through evil or insidious corrupting or undermining <the claim is that pornography has a pernicious effect on society>

Now, today, we have and are using the capability to assess a person’s behavior with reality mining of data and then interpret that profile without monitoring him or her directly, talking to him or her, or “knowing’ them. Does Kroger care if you are in a bad mood when you scan your value card? Is the East TX toll reader interested in your reasons for being there mid afternoon? Does Macy’s want you to buy only brand X and not brand Y at the same price? They all care about your behavior, not your feelings and emotions, and intentions and, and, and…

It is a mashup! People and organizations interacting with one another through multimedia digital means will never be less than it is today; it will always be more. Those interactions dynamically leave traces of that ‘behavior’. This allows scientists, the Mafia or over zealous investigative reporters, for example, and anyone with the technology access to the databases to study and learn about the behavior of those traced without the knowledge or consent of the people and groups being scanned. Techniques like that are thought to infringe on the individuals and groups being traced for commercial benefit of those that have that technology over the individuals, groups of individuals and commercial entities that don’t have that technology.

What’s more, if you or your group doesn’t want to be scanned, traced or digitally followed, you have little to say in the matter. Take the instance of “opting out” that’s put forth as a counter measure today for not being a target for spyware, spam and behavioral marketing… “Opting out” is another way some companies validate a cautious web user. For some it means that a different level of secrecy is needed for those that understand counter-control methods. If you want to be removed from lists you have the following troubles (WHICH ARE ALSO TRUE OF REALITY MINING AND COLLECTIVE INTELLIGENCE EFFORTS);

  1. You don’t know where your data is; multiple servers, entities, in the “cloud”
  2. Once in the web, your data is not a ‘thing’ it is a “byt-pat”, a partial byte sequence and a partial pattern
  3. You don’t know who owns it legally
  4. You can’t catch up to it and kill it
  5. Your intimidation by technology is being used against you
  6. You have no counter-control outside the boarders of your country
  7. Your hope is that it isn’t true of you and your data
  8. Arguments favoring scanning and autonomous tracing are wrapped in virtuous rationales

a. fighting disease: SARS, flu, etc

b. fighting terrorists: real and imagined

c. helping the sick and elderly

d. child safety: fear reduction

The reality of reality mining is that your data collected by all of these methods are like a thought you had last night when watching TV: you can’t get at it now, you can’t know exactly where it is located in your head, and once you get it back after going through some mental gymnastics it is not the same as it was when you first had it.

Every day privacy becomes more of a myth than it was even last weekend during the USC game when the water company could tell – they have the data – when the half time occurred due to a drop in the water levels in an eight minute period. We expect that the water will be there and it was. We expect that no one was watching but what “watching” means is changing. It is changing really fast and in ways no one at MIT, Bureau of the Budget and Management or the Justice Department can predict or control. The steaks for success are high. Kroger is working on it.

Are you ready for a wild ride on a roller coaster in the dark without handrails? That is what’s coming here.

Read Full Post »

UPDATE 1-US weekly jobless claims surge to 16-year high
Reuters – 11/20/08 – 1 hour ago

US weekly jobless claims shoot up to 542000 MarketWatch

Boeing layoff of 800 rattles Wichita aircraft economy

HP to possibly layoff 25,000 world wide coincident with merger with EDS

(Update) UTMB Begins Process Of Laying Off 3000 Employees dBTechno

Brady Corp. posts slight 1Q sales dip, announces layoffs
The restructuring means layoffs for about 800 of Brady’s 8000 workers worldwide.

We all know the difficult and sometimes devastating consequences from layoffs from employment. Yes, there is a ripple effect of the shops and the Blackberry sales and the BMWs and the ‘this and that’ affected in the years to come.

All these represent, [say it with me…] “CHANGES IN CONTINGENCIES”.

There is the change in contingencies from what controls the people employed that need to be redeployed by cities and states to control contingencies of the people wanting a job, unemployment benefits, food from food banks and such. There is the toll on children, handicapped, and those with marginal skills that were working just to exist.  All their contingencies change as well only they are not any more a part of the statistics than are the one-room developers working for Macy’s or Mama Mia’s.

All these things are tough. But they are tough for other reasons than given or obsessed over a $5 Starbucks coffee [also laying off and closing retail stations]. That reason is the wholesale breakage in the schedules we have. Hold on. Think about it. We are consumed by work and the things that lead to it and result from it. We normally groan about traffic, litter, bosses, colleagues, food, time and other highly emotional elements. We have all these things on schedules. They are intertwined with each other to a point where changing one, (Starbucks is too crowded at lunch) is met with a lot of travail and consternation in the process of searching for another hangout.

Now consider that for the unemployed, there may be 12,000 to 50,000 changes in what that person does on a weekly basis.

  • Oh, did I mention they have no behavior to replace those 12,000 – 50,000 “things” that they did?
  • Did I mention they have ‘get a new job’ skills ‘cause those behaviors haven’t been used in six years?
  • Did I mention they don’t see people that they considered of value?
  • Did I mention they don’t see the affect of doing work they maybe linked and were good at?
  • Did I mention they aren’t getting paid any more?
  • Oh, and don’t forget the change in value they have of themselves… they are not there and others are there…”What gives with that?”

One solution is to create new schedules. FAST! Immersion into creating behavior for getting a new job as quickly as possible and, in the process, hang out with more positive people, dump all toxic people, don’t drink $5 coffee or attend to any dome and gloom stories from the talking heads. Ignore it all. Those things are out there whether you know about them or not and you can’t effect any of it. Use those social networks you surreptitiously spent time on while working…

Things will come around again if you behave! For now, find some behavior and get back on some new schedules.

Read Full Post »

http://www.nytimes.com/2008/10/28/opinion/28brooks.html?_r=1&scp=2&sq=&st=nyt&oref=sloginfree registration to read if not registered…

Go with the as postulated in this NYT.com article, there are four steps to every decision…

  1. you perceive a situation
  2. you think of possible courses of action
  3. you calculate which course is in your best interest
  4. you take the action

&^+%$!!)*?<#!

If only it were that simple.

Over the past few centuries, public policy pundits, talking heads and some academicians have presumed that step three was the most important. Social science disciplines are premised on that presumption as well; despite the ink used to propagate altruistism at every opportunity, people calculate and behave in their own self-interest.

Greenspan’s quoted in the above article made that clear for his reign and for the country. His comments aside, none of the steps above are worth a lot without the others.

Most of the processing takes place without literal awareness. We behave and when pressed for why, we generate a story that fits that situation and puts us in a virtuous light. We don’t really perceive all that well. Thus, the step that seems most simple is the most complex. Looking at and perceiving the world is an active process of symbol meaning-making that shapes and biases the rest of the decision-making chain.

Psychologists have been exploring our biases for four decades with the work of Amos Tversky and Daniel Kahneman, and also with work by people like Richard Thaler, Robert Shiller, John Bargh and Dan Ariely. Now Brooks would have it that it is time for the economists to contribute. Gasp!

The desperation of the day may mean a new wave of behavioral economists and others who are next to bring pop psychology to the realm of public policy. These are the same pundits that used their antiquated assumptions to provide plausible explanations for why so many others are wrong about risk behaviors and globalization implications.

Nassim Nicholas Taleb for instance. In his books “Fooled by Randomness” and “The Black Swan” he explains it all in equally simplistic manner as the four rules above. As an astute colleague pointed out bluntly, we are asking the guy who coined the perception of “black swans” to predict black swans.” The irony is laughable. What gives a black swan example its value is that it is not obvious [read predictable]. While Taleb may have seen it coming, as stated in the above article, that precludes it from being an example of a “black swan” phenomenon. Irony for sure.

When Taleb gets on the philosophical diving board to spring into evolutionary causation decreeing that humanoids brains evolved to fit a less complex world I found myself gagging instead of gasping. His examples of the perceptual biases that distort our thinking are themselves century old prejudices.

1. Our tendency to see data that confirm our prejudices more vividly than data that contradict them

a. We recognize information due to its relation with exiting cues we have in our repertoire. We don’t see what we haven’t been reinforced to see; it is not self-deception any more than it is self enlightenment when we see what turns out to be correct. In that set of circumstances the correctness is not based on enlightenment but on relationships that were there all along but not focused on, recognized or reinforced by the environment.

b. That environment is the same one where superstition, myth, magic, mind and phenomenalism is considered valuable to be our “humanity” and, knock on wood, we sometimes guess right despite the reasons behind the guess.

2. Our tendency to overvalue recent events when anticipating future possibilities

a. the last 6 months is more like the next six months than the last 1000 years are like the next 6 months

3. Our tendency to spin concurring facts into a single causal narrative

a. if for no other reason, this site is the mainstay of the defeat of monocausality which haunts our culture, bolsters our superstitions and keeps us surprised at regular intervals

4. Our tendency to applaud our own supposed skill in circumstances when we’ve actually benefited from dumb luck.

a. We benefit from historical uniqueness and education that is more than smattered with scientific skepticism as opposed to boorish cynicism that ignores our strengths and panders to the voodoo in the caves.

b. See 1.-b above.

Errors of perception are everywhere when experimental analysis is NOT involved. Clearly, getting to our moon and beyond was due to experimental analysis and NOT interpretation of perceptions of pundits.

Without experimental analysis we’ll continually fail to perceive “what’s going on out there.” The relationships between a zillion things and another zillion things are to complex. While a four point decision tree helps us walk across the street in a small town, it is not the way to figure out how to navigate rules of this years tax code or interpret the Patriot Act I or II on any given Sunday. Who knew and who still knows which small events are linked to big disasters? Who knew that the mechanical Newtonian links were there as well as selected consequences of a billion factors coming together world [pick one] (cause – contribute – accompany) a social-political-economic unraveling? Experimental analysis was not involved. Interpretation of biases was.

Faulty perceptions are not the only reason or application for an experimental analysis. Relationships are complex, not caused by single small or an enormous events as you have been trained to think. We don’t have much training to recognize or understand what our own self-interests are in anything but localized strings of spatial-temporal events. Brooks’ towing with trusting government to become engaged in the process is folly. Just how much “help” can a country endure? What’s worse, it is lazy. Separating government and business is impossible but collusion is asking for our own demise handed to as a coupon toward irrelevance. While we regularly make poor decisions, the government is insensitive to making the correct one or those needing to be made in a timely fashion.

If you doubt that, don’t look in the rear view mirror as some would suggest. Follow the consequences of a potential decision and determine for yourself if you or an agent of an ideology is better suited to care for what is in your best interests. Government information feedback mechanisms are limited, broadly myopic, and mechanical; not timely. The very thing that got them away from the citizenry to be politicians has had ideology numb them contributing to an end to pragmatism. This bias, to be sure, is no better or worse than any other bias. They all can be replaced with an experimental analysis from science rather than the pop pap solutions we are offered.

As we’ve seen from recent crashes before the latest one this set of economic biases just keeps on giving. It keep on giving us the problems that government is content to continue to administer to; mindfulness, equality of everything not equal, brinkmanship over leadership and above, all, saying what works to get re-elected. As stated, this meltdown is a cultural event reminding us that we are perceptive beings, seeing things that aren’t there and not perceiving things that are there. (See previous blogs]


Read Full Post »

We know that behavior is not simple but there are simple behavioral components that keep getting ignored. Relative to what we all experience in life like conflicts in the Dan Ariely remarks below and in a previous blog on this site.… we recognize his statements on habits, good and bad, etc.  Yet there is a second component that comes to be more easily considered as well.  Follow along…

Dan Ariely: ….(on the October Bailout, politicians, Wall Street, etc.)

The second thing is that nothing has changed much in the short term living of people. In some sense, this is smaller than the effect of the increasing gas prices.

Greer: Yeah.

Ariely: What is happening? Basically the thing is we are creatures of habit, if you think about it. The best predictor of what we will do tomorrow is what we did today. That is it. Habits are good and bad. They are good because they help us save energy. We don’t have to think about it. We don’t have to contemplate every cup of coffee if it is worth it or not. As a consequence, we get into habits.

When we lose 50 or 500 interactive habits all at once via an earthquake, hurricane, family death, financial threats, loneliness, fall from grace, rejection…etc. (you get the idea) we have nothing to replace those ‘habits’ that are the products of conditioning shaped by consequences over years. We don’t have any behavior to replace those lost dynamic relationships with… literally!. We have to figure it out all over again. Sometimes it is too much to handle.

Take the following stories bunched together from Associated Press just today…10/7/08

Tuesday, October 7th 2008, 11:31 AM

AP/The Courier-Journal

LOUISVILLE, Ky. – A deputy coroner confirmed Tuesday that Hope Orwick stabbed her two children to death and then shot herself.

Deputy Jefferson County Coroner Bob Jones said Emily Orwick, 9, and Lindsey Orwick, 8, were stabbed multiple times, though he could not say how many. He said Hope Orwick, 35, shot herself in the head.

RELATED: FATHER KILLS SELF, FAMILY IN MURDER-SUICIDE DRIVEN BY FINANCIAL PROBLEMS

Louisville Metro Police spokeswoman Alicia Smiley said a family member stopped by the house just before 7:30 p.m. EDT Monday and found the bodies.

Jones said he hasn’t been able to pinpoint when the girls died, and police were trying to determine a motive for the killings.

Crisis counselors will be available at the girls’ elementary school Wednesday, said Jefferson County Public Schools spokeswoman Lauren Roberts, who would not say which school they attended. Public schools in Louisville were closed Tuesday for parent-teacher conferences.

RELATED: MOM KEPT DAUGHTERS’ REMAINS IN THE FREEZER

Along the quiet, well-kept southwest Jefferson County street where the family lived, children played in their yards Tuesday. All was quiet at the family’s modest, ranch-style house, where there were no signs of activity.

Two chaplains were at the scene Monday night, and Smiley said 15 or so family members gathered there. Police talked to relatives to see if they could help explain what may have led to the deaths.

Neighbor Mechelle Rockey, 48, told The Courier-Journal that she has lived across the street from the family for about six months. She said the two girls often played outside.

Contingencies around us control our behavior. We give them other ‘causes’ but as you can see it is contingencies that have all the power, be you the Pope, the President or the paparazzi… all the people above lost what they saw as options on what to do. Ariely and the others represent the loss (of behavior) on how to cope, what strategies to use, what methods to embrace, etc. They lost their behavior.

What contingencies control your behavior and generates your ‘habits’ that define who you are and what you’d do in your crisis?

Read Full Post »

I was telling my friend the complexities of hurricane IKE for us here in the outskirts of Houston. He too had the ‘experience’ and was caught not being able to adequately explain what it was like. I am tough enough to ‘enlighten’ in most cases so he wasn’t going to “help” me understand what was going to happen when we talked on his birthday last week.

We came to the non-empowering collective conclusion that one can’t adequately explain what it feels like to have an in-gown toe nail. Thus, a hurricane or other environmental event was a bigger task approaching the impossible. That reality makes it improbable to explain the loss and your change in focus you end up having after going through it from threat to the aftermath of a hurricane or natural calamity they call IKE.

Do not read any further unless you have time on your hands [which is an interesting idiom].

This blog represents just one more attempt to put some analogies together to bridge what was experienced here in Houston with IKE for those that were not here in my house – yard – neighborhood or were busy elsewhere experiencing a scavenger hunt for the fiscal drain to plug the banking, mortgage and insurance events going on at the same time. Or, for the entertainment weary, some were experiencing being distracted by lipstick “issues” the desperate were engrossed in while Congress was thinking about how to get re-elected.

Be aware that attempts you read here are like love songs, poetry, adventure novels, adventure monologues, biographies, and jokes told since you were naïve: they can’t replace the real thing…

Whoa, let’s get back to IKE>>>

My experiences are anchored on three things and only three things:

  1. my past experiences
  2. my present experience with IKE
  3. my responses to the milieu [behavior stream] going on around me

I sound pretty simple when it’s put that way. I’ll try to get over it.

None of these things are things you can join me in having… they will not help you one iota in understanding what I experienced.

But, there might be a way…

Because catastrophes or naturally occurring events happen all the time, there are some similarities you may recognize at the right time when you get a chance to experience your own hurricane, tornado, earthquake or tsunami, or for that matter your own in-grown toe nail. Thus, with analogies, similes and metaphors I can attempt to bridge the gap between what I experienced and what I want you to know about that experience.

That’s right. You can generalize from one experience to another based on similarities they have in common. To the degree they have no similarities you can relate to, you are screwed. You’ll experience your calamity convinced it is unique and prevailing over all others of that type. You will have some things you’ll want to communicate and unless you can make the appeal unique and engaging, no one will read past the third paragraph! The calamity you experienced will remain uniquely ‘your’ calamity – or naturally occurring event – which ever represents your drama level best.

No one can know what your experience is like…

Loss of…

“Stuff” – both complex and simple

Behavior – the one no one knows how to talk about

Anchors in life – both complex and simple

Conveniences – both complex and simple

Routines – both complex and simple

Needs reduction – etc.

Real security

Comparative security

Available food

Available water

Available energy

You get the idea…

What’s more the things you can do no longer have any effect…

Water spouts

light switches

Toilets

Garbage cans

Phones

Cars

TVs

Computers

Degoogolization – [loss of connection to Google for news, search and sundry interests]

Stores – including fast foods

You get the idea here too…

So I was telling my friend that during the aftermath having the power come back on after 4 days felt like Christmas morning…

  • I was giddy for hours over little things
    • Hair dryer my wife got to use
    • Coffee grinder
    • Electric razor
    • Garage light
    • Refrig light
    • Laptop

Soon an email came to me that expressed a similar Christmas theme:

  • Decorating the house (with plywood)
  • Dragging out boxes of supplies that haven’t been used since last season
  • Panic riddled shopping in crowded stores
  • Regular TV shows pre-empted for ‘Specials’
  • Family coming to stay with you
  • Family and friends from out of state calling you
  • Buying food you don’t normally buy . . . and in large quantities
  • Days off from work
  • You speak to neighbors who you manage to ignore 360 days of the year…
  • An awkward excitement similar to the culmination of Santa’s efforts
  • Lit candles everywhere
  • Dealing with a myriad of batteries types
  • A high probability you’re going to have a tree in your house!

In the end you thought you were getting back to the world order you had before the storm.

It wasn’t. Some things don’t come back, particularly some behaviors. Some behaviors are there that weren’t there before. You now care about some weird neighbors that once appeared to be part of a witness relocation program. You now look at different ways to escape the pains of no electricity, no running water, no toilets, no gas, no this and no that. You take different ways to work to avoid floods, trees, crews stuck in flood waters trying to reach trees, etc.

Soon you see that someone has their trees trimmed and the debris is at the curb, your curb! Then you realize it…you are back to the trivial, the banal, the inconsequential. Now all you have is the experience, the excitement and the memories along with a shadowing guilt because you have electricity, running water, fuel and food…and there are still 1.2 million people without those things in the 4th largest city in the US where everyone just wants to live life and enjoy their the remainder of their 28,750 days while they wait for the next natural event.

Read Full Post »

« Newer Posts - Older Posts »