Friday, May 20, 2011

Portal -- Worst game ever.

There's a game I've recently played, that many people enjoyed. It's called Portal. I call it the worst game ever made, or damn close to it. While many morons may suddenly clamor in defense of the game, I don't understand why. There's no challenge, just puzzles, except...there are no puzzles, just chores. You look at the room and you know what to do. Throw down a few portals and you go to the next room. There's not plot, at all. There's a robot that say a few words to you, that somehow impresses a bunch of morons. I think the entire dialogue of the game, typed out, would be about a page, maybe two if you use a very large font. The one and only interesting part of the game is that the portal gun is a neat concept, but that's it as far as game play goes. At no point in the game do you even slow down to consider the way to solve the puzzle in front of you, it's blatantly obvious every single time. It's as challenging as matching wooden blocks to holes with the proper shape. The closest thing to a challenge is you misaligned a portal by a foot and miss your intended mark. How difficult.

No plot. No story. No challenge. Nothing. You run around doing silly little chores for about two hours, or a bit less. The best thing in the game is the song that rolls at the credits. Sorry. I mean the only thing that isn't complete shit about the game is the song that rolls at the credits. I'll end now, because I'll just repeat myself in a frothing rage about how terrible this shit is. I would have rather spent two hours watching Battlefield Earth. Seriously.

Monday, May 16, 2011

The Dunning-Kruger Effect

There's a rather interesting psychological study that's out there, research done by Dunning and Kruger, so their end result is aptly named the Dunning-Kruger effect. In 1999, these two published a study named Unskilled and Unaware of It:... detailing what they found in their study. Anyone with college access to journals or perhaps even Google can dig out the original article.

Anyhow, the study had those people participating in the study take tests over a various number of subjects, including humor, logic and grammar. The findings perhaps are not overly surprising for section of the study: Those who were inept in these areas, tended to overestimate their competence, and believed them being not only much better than they were, but above average compared to the rest of the people taking the study. So the idiot in the corner getting a 30% thinks he's not only doing well on the test, but also believes he is doing better than the rest of the people around him. The opposite is true for those who are above average in competence on those tests. They estimate their abilities as below what their true skills are. Furthermore, they assume/guess/estimate (without any knowledge of these people) the average competence level in the study is much higher. That is, they over-estimate how competent people around them are.

This study, while done well, does not shed to light anything that most people wouldn't consider anecdotally obvious (unless they're... the types of people who overestimate themselves, to say the least.) Many people throughout history has noted this behavior. Charles Darwin is famously quoted as saying, “ Ignorance more frequently begets confidence than does knowledge.” This, in fact, is what the study proves using a proper scientific study. However, this is not the most interesting part of the study.

The most interesting part of the study is that the subjects were allowed to later see everyone's tests, and then were allowed to reevaluate their own and others abilities based on what they saw. Those people, who were above average and overestimated others while underestimating themselves, and saw the tests, properly understood and recognized that they were above average, and the rest of the people were not. Their reevaluated scores were much more closely in line with the actual results, after that.

However, those below average people who believed they were competent, after seeing those tests, still deemed themselves as above average and underestimated everyone else in the study, despite seeing all the completed tests. The idiots, as I'd call them, still believed after seeing the evidence that they were competent when they were not. How the hell?

To quote part of the abstract: “Not only do these people reach erroneous conclusions and make unfortunate choices, but their incompetence robs them of the metacognitive ability to realize it” Basically, these people are ignorant but not only that... since they are ignorant, they're too ignorant... to realize they're ignorant. That's quite a bit of of ignorants. (rim shot, woo!) So basically, intelligent and competent people realize, after seeing everyone’s efforts, that they themselves are intelligent and the others are not. The incompetent and ignorant people, however, are so inept they cannot, even after seeing evidence of their stupidity, realize they're stupid. They cannot even comprehend and understand the evidence that shows they're dumb. That's Republican status, there. Literally.

This study sums up the vast majority of internet psychology so well, that it should be renamed the “Internet Forums Effect.” Particularly since the communication is done via writing and... well, let us say, that many people I know haven't read a book that actually used wit, much less understand what wit it.

The full abstract, if anyone is interested enough is here, so one can read it and perhaps look up the full study if they so desire.


Unskilled and Unaware of it

Journal of Personality & Social Psychology; Dec99, Vol. 77 Issue 6, p1121-1134

People tend to hold overly favorable views of their abilities in many social and intellectual domains. The authors suggest that this overestimation occurs, in part, because people who are unskilled in these domains suffer a dual burden: Not only do these people reach erroneous conclusions and make unfortunate choices, but their incompetence robs them of the metacognitive ability to realize it. Across 4 studies, the authors found that participants scoring in the bottom quartile on tests of humor, grammar, and logic grossly overestimated their test performance and ability. Although their test scores put them in the 12th percentile, they estimated themselves to be in the 62nd. Several analyses linked this miscalibration to deficits in metacognitive skill, or the capacity to distinguish accuracy from error. Paradoxically, improving the skills of participants, and thus increasing their metacognitive competence, helped them recognize the limitations of their abilities.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Algebra – My Epiphany

I've had one real epiphany in my life (I loathe to use that word, but it's the most accurate I can think of) and it came during my first day of high school – in my first class. It was a basic algebra class and par the norm, we simply went over solving for a variable in the most basic fashion. I don't recall the problem offhand, of course, but something along the lines of X + 4 = 7, or something similarly simplistic. However, this small little bit of knowledge made me aware of something quite more... substantial than basic math. I saw, undoubtedly, that X was three. It was the answer, there was no qualms, no possible misinterpretations or historical inaccuracies. X was 3 and there was no possible way for it to be anything else. It... clicked something in me. Every answer, every belief and every thought should strive to be as accurate, as perfect and as unquestionable as the solution to this algebra problem.

In truth, it really made me aware of  true "logic", but given the woeful lack of education both in and before high school, I wasn't really aware of it at the time.

In mere moments, I started questioning with serious scrutiny every (or at least many) belief I had. Absurdities without real evidence were quickly dismissed, and I assure you I had some positive beliefs about some absurd things. From the Loch Ness Monster, to Big Foot, to Ghosts, to even more common silliness, all were put on the chopping block. I looked at math and looked at those beliefs and compared the strengths of those beliefs. It was silly, was the evidence and reasons I had for believing these things. I dismissed them. I saw that the evidence was sub-par and simply... dismissed my beliefs on those circumstances. Not clinging to inept conspiracies or having emotional attachments to unjustifiable beliefs, but letting them go. I, as a clich̩ goes, manned up and just accepted things I believed were dumb to believe in. This, I feel, is probably the most important moment in my life. I realized that it was better to be right than be sure you're right and still be wrong. It was better to be admittedly ignorant than believe things without evidence. These beliefs, create an end result... you actually are right and sure you're right because you care about being right Рnot about thinking you're right. You're ignorant of far less, since you refuse to have beliefs without evidence, so you go out of your way to collect data. I found, at least in my experience, a simple kid thinking that a belief should be more like solving for X made me, in many respects, a better person than most. Perhaps I put too much emphasis on this one point, this one moment, but the mind does such things. Either way, it's a point in time that I've found to be one that I tend to recall better than most, and for good reason, I would think.

And that's how it should be. Every idea with a relative evidence strength of 3 should either be believed or not believed. You don't pick and choose your beliefs based on what you want to believe... or shouldn't, anyway. Being a rational being means that every 3 is either believed or not believed. You can't choose evidence level 3 of Bigfoot and believe in Bigfoot, then see evidence level 3 of Loch Ness Monster and dismiss it. That sort of cognitive dissonance creates a person that, simply, is not rational. They become incoherent in their beliefs. It is something to strive against, personally and socially. In fact, I haven't given much thought to a real definition of irrationality, but to grab one off the top of my head:

An irrational person is one who accepts one belief, but rejects another, despite the evidence for both beliefs being equal.

That is my tentative definition of irrationality. That, is the one thing, that my epiphany really showed me, even if I couldn't articulate it at the time. All beliefs should adhere to the same standards, and those standards should be high. It's something, sadly, most people don't seem to put into practice.

An intro

Well, to begin, I'm writing this post as a small little intro as to why I'm making the blog.

To begin, I don't expect anyone to read this blog regularly, nor do I expect anyone to even glance at it more than once; however, I desire to write more and I find that at least posting these things in some sort of blog will at least give me the smallest bit of motivation to have some basic standards and perhaps write more regularly.

There is no overlapping theme to this blog, merely topics which I will feel like writing on, or have thought or am currently thinking about. As such, they will tend to be philosophical, semi-psychological and often random semi-sarcastic arrogant bullshit. I'll see how it turns out.