Consequential Properties of Scalable Randomness

[From The Black Swan , pgs. 159-160]

This section deals with common prediction errors; I found it very interesting.

1. Taleb uses life expectancy here: the older we get, the fewer days we have left. Makes sense, right? If we live past our predicted death date of 79 to age 90, we don’t get 50 more years tacked onto the odds-chart. We’ll get around 5; and if we live to 100, we’ll get 2.5, etc. This is easily understood.

2. But with outcomes dependent on human variables, we can have extreme fluctuations. If a person tells you a project will be done in 79 days and it isn’t done by day 90, it’s not likely to be finished on day 95. If it’s not completed on day 100, Taleb says it’ll have another 89 days to go. “The longer you wait, the longer you will be expected to wait.”

This is so true, and so simple, and yet it seems less of a “common sense” item than the first one. Why is that? Maybe because for most of  us, or possibly it’s just me, we want to trust people when they tell us they’re going to do something, and when they’re late, we want to believe that they’re going to fix the problem and finish up as close to the originally promised date as they can.

Anyway, I’m still getting a lot out of this book, though I read it in small doses, sometimes putting it down for a week or more.

8 responses to “Consequential Properties of Scalable Randomness

  1. Just a note to say I marked this to read later, re-read, actually, in my rss feed. It’s meaty and I want to think about it.

    Yay! 🙂


  2. This stretches my brain. I honestly don’t understand what it’s saying. 😦


  3. It’s true. I will absolutely commit on a delivery three weeks away. Three weeks later I haven’t really had a chance to work on it, thanks to conditions changing every few hours around here, and the subsequent three week delay seems less urgent. the next delay after that is even less surprising. Pretty soon they don’t expect anything ever. Would be the perfect job if not for that “perform to expectations” nonsense.


  4. I like my job because the deadlines are short and, for the most part, fixed.

    I don’t do well with long deadlines. They seem unreal. And when I hit one and then pass it, I get sort of dreamy and contemplative. Does anyone really care when this is done? Does it really need to be done? Will something happen to make the doing of it irrelevant?

    The longer it goes, the less my interest. I become indifferent, bored. Everything shifts into slow motion.

    I attribute it to ADD. But I think I just like emergencies and situations where you don’t have time to gift wrap the garbage.


  5. I set small, short-term deadlines for myself when faced with a distant one. I hate fire-fights. When I managed people, I’d strongly encourage something similar for them, and them have weekly statuses on the smaller tasks.


  6. I set small, short-term deadlines for myself when faced with a distant one.



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