Refuting this post helps confirm it

by on October 15, 2009 at 5:45 am in Education | Permalink

Chess players who train with computers are much stronger for it.  They test their intuitions and receive rapid feedback as to what works, simply by running their program.  People who learn economics through the blogosphere also receive feedback, especially if they sample dialogue across a number of blogs of differing perspectives.  The feedback comes from which arguments other people found convincing.  Do the points you wanted to hold firm on, or cede, correspond to the evolution of the dialogue?  This feedback is not as accurate as Rybka but it's an ongoing test of your fluid intelligence and your ability to revise your opinion. 

Not many outsiders understand what a powerful learning mechanism the blogosphere has set in place.

1 C October 15, 2009 at 6:01 am

I like to say nah nah nah boo boo before starting all my conversations. You’re right, though, the posts where you anticipate and denigrate a particular line of attack before your commenters make it have worked well for you.

BTW, any word on who was in the Amp can that beat everyone in Washington Sq Park?

2 vasra October 15, 2009 at 6:37 am

So much in agreement.

Now if we could only weed out all noise: First post! You are a . Look at this funny kitten picture! etc

And if people would actually have good form in argumentation.

Now THAT would be rapid and useful corrective feedback to all.

But it ain’t gonna happen.

3 RP October 15, 2009 at 7:11 am

Is there a TOE for chess? A line of play contained in an algorithm which, executed by white is flawless? (using an approximate definition of flawless) If such experimental proof is possible it will have done the work of examining all possible variations. Moore’s Law promotes speculation by some. The blogosphere strikes me as what it might be like if we, the students, were deeply involved in developing the module containing the flawless algorithm for the Ruy Lopez. Or, is it more like what it would be like if we are in a matrix designed to offer the incentive of the fun of pursuing such goals while mixing logic and emotion in real time?

4 Andrew October 15, 2009 at 7:29 am

I look in my car every so often and see all the stuff I’ve accumulated without even trying. The noise is what makes it feel like not trying. The Amp can was funny, but that Washington Park is probably the coolest place I’ve ever seen. A 120 pound chess expert there probably has a better chance than any jock around here of getting laid.

5 Andrew October 15, 2009 at 7:53 am

People are still thinking in terms of comparing the best of a centuries old institution to the spontaneous organization of a handful of first-movers in less than a decade.

People complain about the cross-pollination. Start a blog and be pollinated.

6 Lennart Regebro October 15, 2009 at 8:00 am

People don’t realize it because they don’t use it. Most people have a strong aversion against admitting that they were wrong. Probably they don’t want to look a bit stupid. The end result is that people will continue to defend a standpoint long after it’s been refuted. So they avoid looking a bit stupid by proving to be morons. 🙂

Obviously, this is not the case for science-minded people, but people in general aren’t very science minded…

7 RP October 15, 2009 at 8:40 am

What part has the blogosphere played in “Kasparov vs the World”? One continues to examine the other much like economists continue to study the Great Depression. The assembled chess professors were rigorously challenged by the blogosphere students which they inspired.

Kasparov admitted that his errant response to Deep Blue’s K-F1 in game 2 is necessarily attributable to his state of mind which was fatally altered (wrt approximately flawless chess) by his emotional response to the surprising B-E4 which declined his pawn sacrifice. When Krush rallied her team behind 18…f5! there was no such failure. There was emotion. It may be that emotion in the blogosphere on average alters approximately flawless chess. Perhaps fatally. Does Kasparov regret missing the perpetual check or allowing emotion to lead to his error?

8 Christopher Hessenflow October 15, 2009 at 8:59 am

I’ll agree. I learn things all the time from Blogs. Assuming we have some criteria to determine whether they are credible or not, “white papers”, blogs, newspapers, commentary, etc… help to tighten arguments and expand our thoughts.

9 Jim B. October 15, 2009 at 9:29 am

The blogosphere is a technology that better allows for better filtering and contesting of ideas, and thus some convergence towards good ideas. But that does not mean that this solution is unique. It also allows it to be easier to isolate yourself among a narrow subset of ideas similar to your own, even if those ideas are bad ones.

10 Russell October 15, 2009 at 9:32 am

Oops – that’s a response to some of the comments above, not Tyler’s original post which I think is correct if overly optimistic for some of the reasons stated above.

11 liberalarts October 15, 2009 at 10:20 am

The blogosphere is a way to test knowledge of economic theory and applications of that knowledge. It is not a place to learn the initial theory. Once a person has had intro to micro and macro in class, he/she can go out and test these ideas by reading and commenting in the blogosphere. But one cannot effectively move from an intro understanding to an advanced understanding just by reading and commenting on blogs.

For example, understanding the income and substitution effects of taxation is not going to happen here or anywhere for someone never previously exposed to the basic theory. Understanding that a person can elect to work 45 hours per week in a free market and may continue to choose that same 45 hours with an income tax present, and deadweight loss would likely be present there while not with a lump sum tax for the same person working the same 45 hours simply will not happen with blog learning.

Blog learning is surely much more efficient for other types of learning, which is why I spend a fair bit of time reading high quality blogs, such as this one.

12 RP October 15, 2009 at 10:43 am

Bayes would agree with some of Taleb’s fundamentals. He might agree that to blog is to beware, pondering many hypotheses, hypothesizing that chess and economics (broadly defined) offer narrowly similar templates for models useful for predicting some future value.

13 Reedo October 15, 2009 at 10:50 am

Perhaps another useful analogy is online poker (played without risking actual money). Novices can develop their skills and “feel” much faster. They learn how to carry a bluff and respond well to setbacks. The degree to which economic blogs are dependent on bluster is open to debate.

14 Gil October 15, 2009 at 11:11 am

As long as you don’t see this as a free lunch… Yes, there are positive aspects to it.

15 hibikir October 15, 2009 at 11:51 am

You’d be right if the study of economics had a testable fitness function. The problem is that there isn’t a single correct fitness function.

The reasons computers help in chess is that the fitness function is known, static, and that each trait of your solution can be tested individually. Chess won’t change under your feet, and every play can be analyzed ad nauseam.

The blogosphere is in essence an evolutionary algorithm, so in a way, it’s similar. However, what it tests for is not really truth or correctness, but something else. Call it popularity. Call it the simplest possible explanation that is acceptable. Call it an opinion that resonates with the people of the day. This fitness function that the blogosphere tests around is more like a biology fitness function: The best specimen is not the best in a vacuum, and as time goes by, what once was a loser can become a winner.

Therefore, while the blogosphere probably helps somewhat, it’s rather unfair to compare it with a superhuman chess computer: The human mind has managed to make us take many bad turns over the course of history: Why wouldn’t be expect the blogosphere to do the same thing?

16 Michael F. Martin October 15, 2009 at 12:52 pm

Also, an under-appreciated reason why feedback results in “stronger” players is probably that it provides a more enjoyable experience. This is part of Csikszentmihalyi’s flow hypothesis.

17 Dan October 15, 2009 at 1:35 pm

Refuting this post only confirms it if Tyler accepts that the post was refuted. That means that Tyler is the one who faces a logical bind – the commenters are in the clear.

18 Jens Larson October 15, 2009 at 2:21 pm

This isn’t a ludic fallacy (using a model as reality) so much as it is a confusion of play (no defined outcome) and game (a defined outcome: winners and losers). Chess is clearly the latter. Economics much more the former.

But as to the main point (feedback helps economists form better theories): usually.

19 Bill October 15, 2009 at 7:39 pm

The problem with blogs is that unlike newspapers 1) there is no ombudsman and 2) there are no retractions for error.

The question to ask is: what can be done to improve the quality of information in blogs.

Can we have competitive challenges — so if someone says something is true as a fact that another can challenge that person, or cause that person to offer the factual proof?

What are the ways we can create death panels for falsehoods?

20 Doc merlin October 16, 2009 at 1:34 am

Tyler, you and and others have inspired me. I will now make a blog-ish thing to generate a cooperative model. More info to come!

21 JimJinNJ October 18, 2009 at 11:09 am

The proposition has great merit by my experience. Many of the comments either agree or disagree by taking the prop to the extreme. For example, blogs may be a great learning vehicle for certain people–either of certain level of intelligence, style of thinking, style of learning etc.
Open minded people may benefit most; closed minded may be unaffected.
Personally, as I have read blogs consistently for only the past two years, first in political topics and now more in econ/finance/trading. My main learning, esp in econ, is that everyone (almost) tries to predict/forecast but no one really does it consistently well–only the occasional blind squirrel finding a nut.

And part of the learning is the discordant, noisy nature of blogs. Part of the learning is to sort the wheat/chaff. curious, eager, flexible learners benefit from that. dopes are put off bec they just want “truth.”

22 sometimes October 20, 2009 at 10:10 am

I don’t think there is anything unique to the blogosphere. For example, I subscribe to thoughtful political magazines that hold opinions contrary to mine. I’ve also canceled subscriptions to rags on my side of the political spectrum that just toe the party line, with no insightful analysis.

23 wine red wedding dresses January 28, 2010 at 1:39 am

Perhaps another useful analogy is online poker (played without risking actual money). Novices can develop their skills and “feel” much faster. They learn how to carry a bluff and respond well to setbacks. The degree to which economic blogs are dependent on bluster is open to debate.

24 Phoenix video Production May 22, 2010 at 10:46 am

They took me down.. further from inside of me..

25 louis July 27, 2010 at 3:59 am

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26 five fingers September 22, 2010 at 1:18 pm

I gree with it!

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