Grant Blakeman

Highlights & Notes

The Road

This is the first long-form fiction I've read in years. Crazy.

Comment · · Grant Blakeman

The Wisdom of Crowds

Certainly one interpretation of these scandals is that they were not aberrations but the inevitable by-product of a system that plays to people's worst impulses: greed, cynicism, and selfishness. This argument sounds plausible, if only because capitalist rhetoric so often stresses the virtue of greed and the glories of… "mean business." But this popular image of capitalism bears only slight resemblence to its reality. Over centuries, in fact, the evolution of capitalism has been in the direction of more trust and transparency, and less self-regarding behavior. Not coincidentally, this evolution has brought with it greater productivity and growth.

Comment · · Grant Blakeman

The Wisdom of Crowds

In fact, a 2001 study… found that in America the people whom inequality bothers the most are the rich. One reason for this is that Americans are far more likely to believe that wealth is the result of initiative and skill, while Europeans are far more likely to attribute it to luck. Americans still think, perhaps inaccurately, of the United States as a relatively mobile society, in which it's possible for a working-class kid to become rich.

Comment · · Grant Blakeman

The Wisdom of Crowds

But everything we know about cognition suggests that a small group of people, no matter how intelligent, simply will not be smarter than the larger group. And the best tool for appreciating the collective significance of the information that the intelligence community had gathered was the collective wisdom of the intelligence community. Centralization is not the answer. But aggregation is.

Comment · · Grant Blakeman

The Wisdom of Crowds

After a detailed study of a series of American foreign-policy fiascoes, including the Bay of Pigs invasion and the failure to anticipate Pearl Harbor, Janis argued that when decision makers are too much alike—in worldview and mind-set—they easily fall prey to groupthink. Homogeneous groups become more cohesive try also become more dependent on the group, more insulated from outside opinions, and therefore more convinced that the group's judgment on improtant issues must be right. These kinds of groups, Janis suggested, share an illusion of invulnerability, a willingness to rationalize away possible counterarguments to the group's position, and a conviction that dissent is not useful.

Comment · · Grant Blakeman

The Wisdom of Crowds

Similarly, a recent study of foreign-exchange traders found that 70 percent of the time, the traders overestimated the accuracy of their exchange-rate predictions. In other words, it wasn't just that they were wrong; they also didn't have any idea how wrong they were. And that seems to be the rule among experts.

Comment · · Grant Blakeman

The Wisdom of Crowds

In fact, Page speculates, grouping only smart people together doesn't work that well because the smart people (whatever that means) tend to resemble each other in what they can do. If you think about intelligence as a kind of toolbox of skills, the list of skills thy are "best" is relatively small, so that people who have them tend to be alike. This is normally a good thing, but it means that as a whole the group knows less than it otherwise might. Adding in a few people who know less, but have different skills, might actually improves the group's performance.

Comment · · Grant Blakeman

In Defense of Food

Gas stations have become processed corn stations: ethanol outside for your car and high-fructose corn syrup inside for you.

Comment · · Grant Blakeman

In Defense of Food

Ordinary food is still out there, however, still being grown and even occasionally sold in the supermarket, and ordinary food is what we should eat.

Comment · · Grant Blakeman

Columbine

Hard to read at times, yet hard to put down. As someone who grew up just down the road and was in another, very similar high school the day of the event, it was good to read and learn a lot of information I'd never heard, along with dispelling many, many myths I'd heard as truth surrounding Columbine.

Comment · · Grant Blakeman

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