Some Videos I’m Showing in Class

In class last night we examined how to make better decisions. The lecture focused heavily on cognitive biases and heuristicsac10ec1ace51b2d973cd87973a98d3ab.jpg.1347400360781 that affect our decision-making.

The anchoring heuristic, explained by Daniel Kahneman, author of Thinking Fast and Slow:

An explanation of the availability heuristic:

Kahneman’s explanation of the focusing illusion to New York Times columnist David Brooks:

A discussion of the sunk costs fallacy:

We also discussed analysis paralysis and The Paradox of Choice, a book written by Barry Schwartz. Here is his TED Talk that synthesizes the book well:

Weight Loss Journeys & Eulogy Traits

Rivard Report founder/editor Bob Rivard has written eloquently and poignantly about his weight loss goals and journey. It’s a piece that I can identify with and has made me think about resolutions in general. One of Benjamin Frankin’s virtues was “resolve to perform what you ought; perform without fail what you resolve.”

On December 31, 2013, I wrote my 2014 New Years Resolutions. Here they are with some commentary:

  • Workout 225 days
    • Today, I reached workout #196 for the year. It looks as though this resolution will be accomplished in early October.
  • Wake up at 5:00 am on weekdays
    • With the occasional exception, have stuck to this one.
  • Be more orderly, temperate, frugal, and industrious 
    • I have completely failed at this one.
  • Run the Alamo 13.1 Half Marathon
    • Ran it in March. Ran another in April. Training for one on October 5 and another on November 8.

This list of resolutions essentially addresses weight loss and career advancement. Two weeks ago a dear friend was in a serious car accident, and I couldn’t help but think of the talk David Brooks gave at the 2014 TED Conference:

Here is my favorite passage:

So I’ve been thinking about the difference between the résumé virtues and the eulogy virtues. The résumé virtues are the ones you put on your résumé, which are the skills you bring to the marketplace.The eulogy virtues are the ones that get mentioned in the eulogy, which are deeper: who are you, in your depth, what is the nature of your relationships, are you bold, loving, dependable, consistency? And most of us, including me, would say that the eulogy virtues are the more important of the virtues. But at least in my case, are they the ones that I think about the most? And the answer is no.

So I’ve been thinking about that problem, and a thinker who has helped me think about it is a guy named Joseph Soloveitchik, who….said there are two sides of our natures, which he called Adam I and Adam II. Adam I is the worldly, ambitious, external side of our nature. He wants to build, create, create companies, create innovation. Adam II is the humble side of our nature. Adam II wants not only to do good but to be good,to live in a way internally that honors God, creation and our possibilities. Adam I wants to conquer the world. Adam II wants to hear a calling and obey the world. Adam I savors accomplishment. Adam II savors inner consistency and strength. Adam I asks how things work. Adam II asks why we’re here. Adam I’s motto is “success.” Adam II’s motto is “love, redemption and return.”

And Soloveitchik argued that these two sides of our nature are at war with each other. We live in perpetual self-confrontation between the external success and the internal value. And the tricky thing, I’d say, about these two sides of our nature is they work by different logics. The external logic is an economic logic: input leads to output, risk leads to reward. The internal side of our nature is a moral logic and often an inverse logic. You have to give to receive. You have to surrender to something outside yourself to gain strength within yourself. You have to conquer the desire to get what you want. In order to fulfill yourself, you have to forget yourself. In order to find yourself, you have to lose yourself.

We happen to live in a society that favors Adam I, and often neglects Adam II.

Living a healthy life is a worthwhile goal. As is career advancement. But we find happiness in love and “surrendering to something outside ourselves.”

via Brain Pickings
via Brain Pickings

Maybe next year’s resolutions should address eulogy traits.

Thoughts on Uber

Yesterday, my boss came out in favor of a deregulated vehicle-for-hire industry which would allow companies like Uber to operate in San Antonio. The San Antonio Express-News ran a B1 story on his proposal this morning. This is from his post on D8 Dialogues blog on the subject:

Currently, San Antonio lacks the regulatory flexibility needed to unleash innovation in the transportation industry. Even though City Council recently amended Chapter 33 of the City Code, which regulates vehicle-for-hire services, progress and marketplace disruption demand that we revisit its contents.

To open the doors for innovation in the transportation-for-hire industry, the City Council should adopt policies that: 1) level the playing field; 2) encourage competition; 3) ensure public safety and consumer protection; and 4) provide access for all of our residents.

Two years ago, I wrote an op-ed for a political commentary site outlining my views on the subject:

Uber exists as a mechanism to streamline processes, making urban transportation more convenient for every party involved. Uber has even used market forces to protect the public (a novel concept!) because consumers know more about a driver because of information available about each driver on the app.

Critics of Uber are ostensibly attempting to “protect the public,” but are actually just safeguarding their own…oligopolies of urban transportation. 

My time working for Councilman Nirenberg has changed my perspective slightly, but I wholeheartedly support his proposal.

Tuesday Links

Well, the BCS era is finally over. I’m an Auburn fan, but the clock struck midnight for Cinderella. 1389072271002-USP-NCAA-Football-BCS-National-Championship-Flori-077 Some links:

Elizabeth Bernstein explains why the best way to change our spouse’s behaviors is to demonstrate a willingness to change our own:

Therapists say the most effective change you can make is to the way you react to things that bother you about your partner. We all have “triggers” that prompt us to have outsize negative reactions.

The emotional response usually has very little to do with the trigger itself…”He left his sock on the floor, therefore he doesn’t care about me. I don’t matter.” It’s important to understand what triggers you and why, and to change your response.

When one person starts to make changes, even positive changes, the other may feel frightened or resentful. “People are much more comfortable with what they know, even if it is bad,” she says.

Nick Gillespie argues that Americans aren’t as polarized as we’ve been led to believe, and adds:

How to address economic stagnation, immigration, the debt limit, long- and short-term deficits, foreign policy, and more has never been easy, even when everyone absolutely agrees. But with so many pressing problems confronting Washington, acknowledging that more unites us than divides us might be a smart way to create a future that doesn’t revolve hermeneutic readings of the theological implications of reality TV stars or actively ignoring what large majorities of Americans actually believe.

Dr. Michael Friedman criticizes the practice of schools sending parents of overweight children “fat letters”:

Policy makers and advocates of BMI screening in schools have the best intentions. However, this policy blatantly overlooks the long-term, potentially devastating consequences of this practice for children.

The Middle East has changed quite a bit since 2011. With domestic energy production increasing, Americans are losing interest in the region. Gerald Seib thinks this could be disastrous:

The U.S. has a deep interest in the health of a global economy that still depends on Middle East oil. The dangers of Islamic extremism actually are on the rise rather than the decline. And now there is the real danger of a destabilizing regional nuclear arms race in coming decades set off by Iran.
Americans have a stake, like it or not.

Rachel Maddow is remaking MSNBC in her image: young, urbane, ideological, smart. A former colleague discussed Maddow with the National Review:

She is actually not that interested in reality; she is the most ideological person I’ve ever met. That is not somebody you want in charge of your programming, because she might put on a great show, but she cannot make rational decisions — her agenda is changing America. . . . She really thinks she is changing America for the better. You can’t have somebody like that in charge of your programming.

Charles Blow offers an explanation for the rapid decline of belief in evolution among Republicans:

I believe this is a natural result of a long-running ploy by Republican party leaders to play on the most base convictions of conservative voters in order to solidify their support. Convince people that they’re fighting a religious war for religious freedom, a war in which passion and devotion are one’s weapons against doubt and confusion, and you make loyal soldiers.

Habits and New Year’s Day Links

The gym will be unbearably crowded today. That’s good, though. I hope that some folks make a habit out of their resolution tohabit exercise more. I can personally attest to one of the primary themes of Charles Duhigg’s The Power of Habit, which I started rereading yesterday:

Typically, people who exercise start eating better and becoming more productive at work. They smoke less and show more patience with colleagues and family. They use their credit cards less frequently and say they feel less stressed. It’s not completely clear why. But for many people, exercise is a keystone habit that triggers widespread change.

Some links

Luke O’Neil laments the changing media landscape in Esquire:

This conflation of newsiness with news, share-worthiness with importance, has wreaked havoc on the media’s skepticism immune systems. It didn’t happen out of nowhere, it’s a process that’s been midwifed by the willful blurring of the lines between fact and fiction on the part of a key group of influential sites, that have, unfortunately, established a viable financial model amid the wreckage of traditional media.

Theodore Roosevelt was appointed NYC Police Commissioner at 36.
Theodore Roosevelt was appointed NYC Police Commissioner at 36.

Theodore Roosevelt came up through New York City politics. Roosevelt biographer Edward Kahn gives some advice to Mayor Bill de Blasio:

The new mayor must avoid self-righteousness and be willing to work with political opponents. Liberal or progressive groups in New York…have tended to adopt a shrill tone of moral superiority that played poorly to a wide audience. But Roosevelt was willing to compromise and build alliances beyond his base…Even when he targeted trusts as president, Roosevelt didn’t wage war on American big business. “The captains of industry,” he said in a 1901 address to Congress, “have on the whole done a great good to our people.” Praising your opponents before hauling them before the Supreme Court was classic Roosevelt.

Law professor Glenn Reynolds decries the stupidity of zero-tolerance policies in schools in USA Today:

When your kids attend schools like these, they are under the thumb of Kafkaesque bureaucrats who see no problem blotting your kid’s permanent record for reasons of bureaucratic convenience or political correctness.

But then again, according to Allison Benedikt, you are a bad person if you send your children to private schools:

Whatever you think your children need—deserve—from their school experience, assume that the parents at the nearby public housing complex want the same. No, don’t just assume it. Do something about it. Send your kids to school with their kids.

Ken White’s rebuttal to Benedikt’s limousine liberal manifesto:

I want to minimize the ability of people like Alison Benedikt, who tend to encrust government, to tell me how to raise my family or live my life. I believe in free expression, free worship, free conscience, personal responsibility, the rule of law, strictly limited government (and the strict limitation of people with clipboards and people with guns and badges, thank you very much), and that the best society is one in which free people make free choices, not one in which you allow the Alison Benedikts of the world to make the best interests of your children subservient to the best interests of a collective imagined by a smug self-appointed elite.

There seems to be mass hysteria when it comes to the so-called “student loan bubble.” In the Journal of Economic Perspectives, Christopher Avery and Sarah Turner conclude otherwise:

The claim that student borrowing is “too high” across the board can—with the possible exception of for-profit colleges—clearly be rejected. Indeed, media coverage proclaiming a “student loan bubble” or a “crisis in student borrowing” even runs the risk of inhibiting sound and rational use of credit markets to finance worthwhile investments in collegiate attainment.