Psychology, Prosperity, Politics, and Productivity, oh my.

I took an “intelligent risk-taking” course through work. One of the topics discussed was the “availability bias” when trying to determine risk of something we don’t know. The way our brains work, we try to recall examples of that thing happening. If examples are easy to recall, we estimate the risk as having a high probability. If we can’t easily recall examples, we estimate a low probability.

That look you’re giving me right now … but bear with me for a minute

The instructor gave an example about gun deaths. We were asked to estimate the number of gun deaths in the U.S. every year. Then we were asked to estimate what percentage of those deaths were suicides and what percentage were accidents. So, before you continue reading, estimate the following (without help from Google):

  • Estimate how many gun deaths occur in the U.S. each year
  • What percentage of those deaths are suicides?
  • What percentage of those deaths are from accidents?

Got your numbers ready?

On average, people assume about 140,000 gun deaths in the U.S. annually; the reality is closer to 35,000. People also estimate that about 30% are suicides, which is actually closer to 65%. The bias here is likely because of the cultural stigma of talking about suicide and also that the media doesn’t cover it very often. Therefore it’s difficult for us to immediately bring to mind examples of suicides. As for the percentage for accidents, people estimate about 30% when the reality is less than 5%. The bias there is likely that media DOES cover gun accidents more regularly (because of the strong emotional response it brings).

The instructor took that behavioral bias one step further for use in marketing. If you stayed at a hotel and were asked after your stay to think of three things you didn’t like about the hotel, most people would easily think of three they didn’t like. So the bias makes you feel like the hotel wasn’t a great hotel because you easily thought of examples. But, if they asked you after your stay to think of TEN bad things, you would likely still only think of 2-3 bad things about your stay and assume it must have been a pretty good hotel since you couldn’t easily think of ten bad things. It’s not how many examples you can think of, it’s how easily they come to mind. Fascinating!

Song of the Week

I mean it’s got to be Adele’s new release, right?

The Rich Get Richer

I finished reading “People, Power, and Profits” last week. It’s a great book with a lot of tips at the end on how we, the people, can help get our Capitalist society back on a good track. Almost all the proposals have something to do with regulations and oversight because #greed. The rich get richer and the wealth gap grows. History has shown that societies can only put up with that for so long before somebody tells somebody else to eat cake and then heads start to roll.

Then a few days later I saw this article about how the Top 1% of U.S. earners now hold more wealth than then entire “middle class” (the middle 60% of income earners). So the Bezos’ and Musks’ of the world are pulling waaaaay out front. Yikes. So yeah, if that angers you at all, go pick up a copy of that book and read it / listen to it. Then send an email to your elected representatives with some ideas.

Political Pendulum

Speaking of elected representatives, yesterday was election day. Here in Virginia we were voting for the rich, white guy from the Democratic party or the rich, white guy from the Republican party. Spoiler alert: the Republican won this time.

I’m so jaded with the political parties right now. They’re both throwing the voters to the side just to grab power and take it from the other party whenever/wherever they can. Social media turns into a battlefield of memes about how one party is dumb and the other party can do no wrong.

My problem with the Democratic party is that they just rely on people either hating the Republicans enough to vote for them or they promise the moon and then don’t do anything productive. My problem with the Republicans is that they rely on the far-right whackos to dictate policy instead of the level-headed conservatives … oh AND they rely on people hating Democrats enough to vote for them. I see shit like this all the time and it bothers/worries me:

Do some mother fucking research before you cast your ballot … and not on Facebook or Twitter!

The truth is that most of us live our day-to-day lives somewhere in the middle of the political spectrum. We even manage to have daily interactions with people who have opposing political views! Yet somehow, if you’re online or watching TV, it appears that it’s us vs. them in every single category of life. There are no grays, it’s all black or white. If you don’t believe in A, then you *must* believe in B. Ridiculous. Unfortunately, short of me running for office, I don’t see much I can do other than vote for the same candidates over and over.

Actual image of the political parties courting a voter


Things I know I have to work on:

  • Not saying “yes” too often
  • Maintaining focus

I’m a people pleaser at heart and also just want to help people when I can. So I have a bad habit of agreeing to help before I look at my commitments … often over-committing myself. Something that has been magnified now that I’m working on my Masters and have even less free time. So I’m working on it, and I’m dropping some things I’ve helped with for years in order to save my sanity.

Also, I wouldn’t be surprised if I had some sort of undiagnosed ADHD. I’ve found ways throughout my life to help and “productivity” systems that help. But I still have problems maintaining focus sometimes. I know everybody does, so join the club, right? But I seriously bounce back-and-forth between things way too much sometimes. I can’t seem to shut other things out. So yeah, just something I need to work on.

Uninspirational quote to brighten your day!

Security Tip of the Week

This week I want to step back and look at a higher level concept: Data Privacy vs. Data Security. While these two concepts are very closely linked, they are two, distinct concepts. I have been calling this section “security tip of the week” when sometimes the advice I convey is more related to privacy than security (like last week’s encrypted communication message). Either way, it’s good to understand the differences so you can understand how to protect both.

Data Privacy is concerned with collecting, storing, and sharing proprietary and personal information. When talking data privacy, the concern is usually more about the rules and regulations to keep that information safe and allowing controllable access.

Data Security is concerned with confidentiality, availability, and integrity (often called the C-I-A triad) of data. This is the policies and tools in place to ensure the data is protected from unauthorized access, unauthorized changes (data is reliable and correct), and available to authorized users when they need it.

Obviously there will be a lot of overlap because you’re essentially protected data, but it’s still good to remember they are different topics and sometimes different tools are necessary for the job.

Stuff I’m Reading

This article about a team of Dutch students who created a custom solar-powered camper completing an 1800 mile (3000 km) trip across Western Europe.

More about the Pandora Papers … we’ll see if anything actually comes from this release.

The visual history of Rickrolling

The latest book from Ryan Holiday called “Courage is Calling: Fortune Favors the Brave”. Update: I finished this over the course of writing this blog, now I’m reading “A Princess of Mars: John Carter book 1” by Edgar Rice Burroughs.

This post has been day 43 of #100DaysToOffload