India Uncut

This blog has moved to its own domain. Please visit for the all-new India Uncut and bookmark it. The new site has much more content and some new sections, and you can read about them here and here. You can subscribe to full RSS feeds of all the sections from here. This blogspot site will no longer be updated, except in case of emergencies, if the main site suffers a prolonged outage. Thanks - Amit.

Saturday, December 24, 2005

Counterintuitive, but true

Chris Anderson, who famously coined the term, The Long Tail, writes that people tend to distrust the Wikipedia because it "operate[s] on the alien logic of probabilistic statistics." He explains:
Our brains aren't wired to think in terms of statistics and probability. We want to know whether an encyclopedia entry is right or wrong. We want to know that there's a wise hand (ideally human) guiding Google's results. We want to trust what we read.

When professionals--editors, academics, journalists--are running the show, we at least know that it's someone's job to look out for such things as accuracy. But now we're depending more and more on systems where nobody's in charge; the intelligence is simply emergent. These probabilistic systems aren't perfect, but they are statistically optimized to excel over time and large numbers. They're designed to scale, and to improve with size. And a little slop at the microscale is the price of such efficiency at the macroscale.

But how can that be right when it feels so wrong? [Links in original.]
Well, it's the same reason, as he explains, why people still debate market economics and evolution: because, being probablistic systems, they're "simply counterintuitive to our mammalian brains."

On that note, here's a fine essay by Max Borders on a few economic concepts that are counterintuitive.

(Link to Anderson's post via Marginal Revolution.)
amit varma, 1:29 PM| write to me | permalink | homepage

I recommend: