Experts, vs risk-taking principle

Experts are a clas of people who have been exalted in our society, since the industrial revolution freed our time and attention from mundane chores and science got the credit for that. The point that has gone missing though is that the pioneers and catalysts of industrial revolution have been many, many.. Sure definitely there have been scientists(academicians) working in laboratories and discovering facts that led to the industrial revolution.

But there have also been entrepreneurs(think edison), tinkers(Think wright  brothers) etc.. who have made substantial contributions.

Before I take a stance in favour of either, disclaimer, I identify/fall closer to the tinkerer side of things than academia, and have old grudges with the standard schooling system(I have post-graduate degree, stopped short of going for a doctorate).

@nntaleb takes the stance that the academicians/scientists generally tend to take a very conservative approach to the risk management problem involved here and some of them tend to over-inflate their importance to real world decisions and applications.

I tend to lean towards him. I do think he has a very strong point when he says, these academicians(particularly from economics field) when they move into policy and regulation, make/create absurd rules and policies that create disasters like the 2009 CDS crisis which the general public end up paying the price for.


The counter argument or rather closely counter argument(as it’s not an exact opposite) is the mathematicians’ apology. The point made there being that, there’s a place for academicians with low risk, because that enables them to go hunting for rare, ambitious and moon-shot projects. The general public will call them black swan events, but i think NNT will disagree, that it’s not enough to just be rare.

Anyway, the risk-taker vs rent-seeker classification can be applied to behaviour and the beauty of it is that it works without scale invariance.


For ex: a tenured professor, will be rent-seeking behaviour with his professorship but can be risk-taking with his research projects(hopefully). but the same professor in his financial portfolio can have Govt. Bonds for rent-seeking needs and risk-taking trying to chase multi-bagger stocks.  It can even be applied to day-to-day activities for example rent-seeking/socio-political conflict avoidance* in lectures Vs mountain climbing or para jumping or in his adventurous leisure time(or just rash driving on university commute).


Different professions have different patterns of this kind of trade-offs and not only is it a static in time trade-off, it is also a temporally dynamic trade-off.

For ex: A day trader might  face a lot of upside/downside on a day-to-day basis, but it might be very conservative trading  strategy over the year or two. (I’m afraid i don’t know much about day-trading).


One of the main conflicts/dichotomy i see between the left and the right hinges on the same principle and the different strategies they take to manage the risk and how they offload the risk.  For ex: “Whenever we label something, we judge” (Paraphrasing fro memory, From Nomi marks) implying judgement is bad, because it stresses on the differences between each other.(based on context).  On the other hand, we have John Galt, who would proclaim “There are two sides to every issue: one side is right and the other is wrong, but the middle is always evil.”  These two seemingly irreconcilable ends have a meeting point.i.e: to say, there’s a false dichotomy. You’d find this theme repeated in many different philosophical stances and arguments.

I suggest the rent-seeking Vs risk-taking behaviour can resolve this conflict. For ex: when two people are in a transaction (say a used car, to use a cliche american ex), they both have personal risk -management strategies and risk capacities regarding that particular transaction(or rather the ideal rational man probably does, but all of us just have our biases and instincts/heuristics about our risks). Circling back to answer John Galt, sure in the outside world there’s always a true/false situtation, but each person can have their own confidence level or probability belief about thet outcome and might lean either way based on that. (Think of the yes/no language here as being dictated by a logistic function which is based on subjective beliefs about the probability before the pre-experiment (opening the schroedinger’s box if you will) )

To answer the Nomi Marks part of the point, True labeling ==> judging ==> stressing on the differences, but that doesn’t mean the differences lead to decisions that are harmful by default for the other. (Once again, in an ideal transhuman ) All that needs to be the point of judging is that to make the right decision one that doesn’t incentivise rent-seeking at the cost of offloading risk to the future generation or the other party in the transaction. Without labeling/judging that’s impossible and the character per se knows that. (If you follow the series, the character prefers the welfare of the cluster over any other humans and acts accordingly harming others when needed).

So why I’m writing about this ? This might seem aimless, but it’s not. This is a way of thinking that’s rather handy for any big decisions. And also exemplifies why decisions that are made in a highly time-constrained situation tend to have closer to chance level of positive outcomes.  In my personal case, the transgender diagnosis is not neccessarily dependent on a psychiatrist giving me a certificate. It also explains, why there are so many therapists/psychiatrists unwilling to diagnose someone with gender dysphoria. It’s just a simpler risk management strategy for them given the lack of numbers/minority of psych. disorders in the general population and also less work for them to research. Which of coures is the reason, “Informed Consent” is a thing.

At an individual level, it can also be a helping tool when thinking about transition, coming out(personally and professionally) etc.  This is one of the reasons there are other labels like “non-binary”, “genderfluid”, “genderqueer” etc. This is also one of the reasons, it is not a good idea for the gatekeeping to be hand-wavy. It’s better for the gate-keeping process/systems(laws involving trans discrimination, bathroom usage etc..)  to be more open and free than restrictive. But i digress, at the personal level , does physical, social transitioning important for anyone, if the risks and rewards are commensurate. (For ex; chronic/acute depression originating in dysphoria and potentially much happier social life etc..) (To digress again, this is one of the reason, some practitioners insist on not rushing transgender HRT treatment to teens, to make sure there’s progressive worsening of the dysphoria and/or depression resulting from it. **) .

I think that’s it for now,  i am out of word-fuel for now, so i’ll  leave with a comic that kinda triggered all this thoughts in hopes it can point to the various other situations the same principle can be applied.


* — Note this probably is not the same for all subjects and almost definitely is a different pattern between say journalism/literature vs physics/maths fields.

** — I am not here taking the sides on this one, I tend to lean on the may be puberty blockers (and social transition) till the persons/teens are sure of what they want side, but I don’t have a strong opinion, as i surely am not early-onset-dysphoric person. Context: I am 36, and only now beginning to accept that might be trans, currently on 2-months of DIY HRT and in the middle of gender therapy, but also in the middle of unrelated marital issues so long way to go.



Instinctive herd behaviour

I Just saw this link and it got me thinking.

In my experience, this is true. Humans have something of an instinct for noticing people that don’t fit in. I say that, as someone who has adopted habits and behaviours to fit-in, only to later on realize that(at crunch/testing situations) no matter how much i felt like i belonged, the group had always been willing to cast-me out..

A sort of Jim/Andy/Ryan mix/in-between, to use the metaphor from “The Office”. The core point here being that, some parts for the groups are loyal to each other more than to the other parts. And VGR makes a very good point as to which ones, that’s the members that are in the comfortable in the middle are more loyal to each other vs others at the edge. So anyone, trying to fit-in will have to by definiton join the group at the edge only, and have to work their way through to the middle, based on hacking their own motivations and reward systems to rely on group appraisal and approval.(Which obviously aligns with a loose idea of normal/average that the group holds)

Circiling back to the original comment that triggered this, transgendered people are ones who experience this first hand, outside of some psychopaths, and a few other psychological disorders (for ex; aspergers’ or high-functioning autists etc..) Unfortunately, this rule of VGR is pretty much fractal. There will be people within the LGBTQ community that would feel part of the loyal middle and part of the fringes. There will be people part of the Lesbian community who feel the same. This is not an attempt at prescribing it shouldn’t be so. Although it does trigger wondering about how would a society function without this loyal middle, fringes few and clearly  non-belonging others hierarchy in the human brain.

However, this is just a descriptive attempt, this will mean, there’ll always be TERFs, chasers, there’ll always be the candiflas( forgive me, they seem to have taken down their videos, but those who’ve seen would know what i’m talking about). The point is, that it is a necessary human condition and each and every one of us, have to make this decision when we meet someone new, about balancing between the cost of being inclusive and including them into the group, vs the value to be derived by keeping them in the fringes as barometers of group membership vs treating them as one of the others, denying the group membership rights.  It is difficult enough at a individual level, that i don’t know how many do think about these choices, and to make things much worse, these decisions are made on the fly, while being in the middle of a group and meeting the new person. (Which means, how the rest of the group reacts to the new person also factors in.).

I don’t know what’s the point to this, nor do I propose a solution nor do I suggest everyone ,and every group to introspecct on this, but it is an interesting thing to introspect on the individual level. (I’ve never see introspection happening well at the group level to any depth, but that’s asking too much i believe.)