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Confirmation Bias May 4, 2014

Posted by bobv451 in Uncategorized.
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One of the hats I wear at this time of year is working on the editorial staff of a four-play of great fantasy football magazines. One of them won best fantasy football magazine of the 2013 (beating out such also-rans as Sports Illustrated and Rotowire <g>). One article that just passed through my computer this year takes the usual fantasy selection process to a new level by discussing confirmation bias.

This started me thinking about how confirmation bias enters into fiction writing overall. In a nutshell this is (subconsciously) looking for information that supports your own beliefs.

Everyone filters what they choose to read simply because there isn’t time enough to read everything. If I write a book a month and you can read it in a day, you have 29 or 30 days free–but there are hundreds of authors also publishing a book to take up that schedule. Read 3 a day–there are more than that being published. And I’m just talking f&sf. Throw in mysteries and westerns and romance and nf and all the rest, you’d have to read faster than the speed of light. So of course you need to pick and choose (call it discriminate, if you will). You read space opera with a touch of other sf? You still have to figure out how to best spend your time. Favorite author? This is music to my ears if my name is on that mental list because it means I write what you like.

Here is where confirmation bias can be both good and bad. It’s good that you read for enjoyment what entertains you. It’s stupid to force yourself through a book that isn’t delivering the groceries. All you have in life is time and you must make the most of it. The same goes for being a writer. I pick and choose what interests me to write. Confirmation bias supports my choices since I need look at only the bits and pieces that reinforce my foolish belief I can sell what I write. Would something outside the box (I am beginning to hate this cliche) be better? Maybe, but not if it doesn’t spark my interest. I love reading about physics and my bias is in that direction. That’s not to say civil engineering wouldn’t add to my store of info, but mostly I don’t care about asphalt roads or designing parking lots or see how a story about them would be fun to write. I would rather find another article on the Alcubierre warp drive.

Confirmation bias supports my beliefs in fiction reading and writing. Making decisions that involve life and death situations certainly require examining your beliefs to be sure they aren’t doing great harm or are just not right. What if the accepted mass of the electron was wrong, maybe just by a tad? Such “absolutely known” numbers need to be verified and are never “accepted science” in real science.



Daylight Losing Time November 7, 2010

Posted by bobv451 in contest, ideas, nostalgia, Time.
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So why am I still tired when I slept an extra hour? Oh, wait, there really wasn’t an extra hour. And it was merely borrowed from when we went onto DST earlier this year. This is a crazy idea that has outlived its usefulness now that it has destroyed drive-in movies (when the feature starts at 9, you’re going to be out past curfew…)

Ben Franklin was a hale and hearty fellow, well met and all that but his fondness for things French went too far when he came back with the idea for DST. The notion of time zones was instigated by the railroads, and that’s a good thing. Having the country on one giant time zone or each town setting its own standard (Albuquerque it’s 8:30 but across the river in Rio Rancho it’s 9:15? I don’t think so.) is confusing and inefficient, but how about making the entire country into only 3 time zones, East, West and God’s time? Mountain time is something of a ginger-haired stepchild, though seeing 10pm shows come on at 9 isn’t that bad. Our eleven o’clock news airs at 10.

And on other things time-ish, the wrist watch makers are realizing fewer people wear ‘em these days. They use their cell phones. Trying to convince everyone a wrist watch is now a fashion accessory is going to hurt because I can’t afford a Rolex. And that wrist watch is something of a memory for me. I got my first watch in the 6th grade–it was some kind of “I’m grown up” moment. Of course, I smashed the crystal before a week was out. I think I fell off my bike (which happened a lot–the bike was a hand me down and weighed more than I did, not to mention being about 6″ too big)

This was posed to me a while back and today seems a good time (ahem) to trot it back out. How many clocks are there in your house? Wrist watches, timers, VCRs/TiVos, computers, clocks, every last ticking one of them? In my office alone are 9. In the kitchen? 4. And so on. A lot. I like atomic clocks and have 2 standalones (don’t count the computers) as well as my wristwatch.

Does Anybody Really Know What Time It Is?

How’s your NaNoWriMo coming along? Time is running out.