Wednesday, September 21, 2016

341 Days Until Classes

341 days until the start of classes.

I am assuming, of course, that I will have a class on the first day of classes. This is certainly not guaranteed, but it does admit to an error bar in my calculations.

The latest London School of Economics public lecture broadcast was a waste of time. in Signals and Social Consequences from Shrinkflation to Fighter Jets, Dr. Pippa Malmgren argued for using "narrative" and "signals" in economic analysis, as opposed to math-driven economic models and more empirical evidence. She draws significant conclusions from the price of fish or a shipment of olive oil. All of this predicts the end of civilization as we know it.

The problem is - as is always the problem with this type of evidence, one can always find the signals that one wants to find. I have endured advice to prepare for the coming economic collapse for over 40 years. There is no way to remove confirmation bias, cherry picking, and "just-so" stories from this type of work.

To top it all off, she adds a layer of conspiracy theory - of the form, "Officials are hiding the truth from you but you can figure it out for yourself if you just know how to read the signals." Yet, she accompanies this with self-promoting claims about how she seems to be the only person on the planet looking at the right signals and drawing the right conclusions. She literally said at one point that the number of people in the world watching one of her signals and drawing the relevant conclusions is, "just me".

It is true that economic modelling is a seriously flawed business. When it comes to people making predictions as to whether the stock market will continue to go up, go down, or flatten, I substantially ignore all of them as being nothing more than throwing darts at a distant dart board. However, we know how cognitive biases corrupt less rigidly defined evidence, and we have know reason to believe that an amateur looking at "the signals" can do a better job than an expert looking at hard numbers - even if the expert cannot do very well.

On the Philosophy Bites front, a new episode showed up. I am now down to 12 episodes left.

There are several episodes recently that I would like to comment on. There is an episode on epistemic responsibility, an episode on duty (using an example the duty to keep promises), and episodes on Buddhism and stoic philosophy. Each one of these raises an interesting subject of discussion, so I intend to devote a separate post to each.

I also ventured into the Philosophy department site for the University of Colorado at Boulder and found some class materials for the graduate level Ethics Proseminar. The department has a requirement that all incoming PhD students take certain general classes in ethics and metaphysics that will give them a common history regarding these subjects. The ethics courses involved taking some classical readings in ethics and discussing them.

I had a thought of adding a project of reading some of these assignments in advance. However, I do not have any reason to believe that the course I am required to take will be taught the same way by the same people, and there is far too much potentially relevant literature for me to have any hope of getting through it all. Therefore, I will wait until the course descriptions are posted next spring and spend the summer months trying to get a head start on those materials.

A specific note of disappointment was that the readings on Henry Sidgwick did not include Book III, Chapter XII of the Methods of Ethics, "Motives or Springs of Action as Subjects of Moral Judgment". This, clearly, would be a chapter that I would like to write a paper on. If, per chance, when I take this course it involves the same reading assignments, I wonder if I will be able to get away with petitioning to include this chapter so that I can give a presentation on it. Chapters II, III, VIII, and IX are also not on the reading list. Being chapters devoted to virtue, they would certainly be ways of entering into a discussion of motives (desires) as subjects of moral judgment.

Perhaps I will write a separate paper and turn it in anyway.

Too much to do. Too little time. I think I have said that before.


Doug S. said...

In the long run, the stock market will grow roughly in line with the overall growth of the economy. In the short run, it's anyone's guess.

Alonzo Fyfe said...

So, the question is, in the long run, how much will the economy grow.


Can we be certain of that?