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Posts Tagged ‘decision-making

“Gentlemen, you need to add armor-plate where the holes aren’t, because that’s where the holes were on the airplanes that didn’t return”*…

Diagram of bullet-holes in WWII bombers that returned

Allied bombers were key to Britain’s air offensive against Germany during the second world war. As such, the RAF wanted to armour their bombers to prevent them from being shot down. But armour is heavy – you cannot reinforce an entire bomber and still have it fly. So statistician Abraham Wald was asked to advise on where armour should be placed on a bomber.

After each wave of bombing, every returning aircraft was meticulously examined and a note was made of where each aircraft had sustained damage by the Germans. The image [above] conceptualises what Wald’s data might have looked like visually.

So what was Wald’s advice? Where should armour be added?

He essentially advised the RAF to add armour to places where you do not find bullet holes. Wait… what?!

Wald wisely understood that the data was based only on planes that survived. The planes that did not survive were likely to have sustained damage on the areas where we do not observe bullet holes – such as around the engine or cockpit…

Making better decisions: one of the most prevalent– and insidious– forms of selection bias, survivorship bias, illustrated: “How to armour a WWII bomber.”

See also: “How to avoid being duped by survivorship bias.”

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As we think clearly, we might send productive birthday greetings to W. Edwards Deming; he was born on this date in 1900. An engineer, statistician, professor, author, lecturer, and management consultant, he helped develop the sampling techniques still used by the U.S. Department of the Census and the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

But he is better remembered as the champion of statistically-based production management techniques that first gained traction in post-WWII Japan, where many credit Deming as a key ingredient in what has become known as the Japanese post-war economic miracle of 1950 to 1960, when Japan rose from the ashes of war onto the its path to becoming the second-largest economy in the world– through processes shaped by the ideas Deming taught. In 1951, the Japanese government established the Deming Prize in his honor.

While his impact in Japan (finally) brought him to the attention of business leaders in the U.S., he was only just beginning to win widespread recognition in the U.S. at the time of his death in 1993.

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“Fortune sides with him who dares”*…

 

Screen Shot 2018-12-06 at 10.16.00 AM

 

… or not:

Does hot weather actually make us hot-headed? Does a warming planet induce us to take more risks? According to new research, there is indeed a correlation: When it comes to rational decision-making, changes in climate shape how individuals think about loss and risk—even if it takes centuries for that evolution to occur…

New research finds that people living in climatically turbulent regions tend to make riskier decisions than those in relatively more stable environments.  The full story at “How volatile climate shapes the way people think.”

* Virgil

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As we feel the heat, we might recall that it was on this date in 1945 that Volume 1, Number 1 of the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists was published.  Concerned with scientific and global security issues resulting from accelerating technological advances that might have negative consequences for humanity, the group created “The Doomsday Clock” which has featured on its cover since its introduction in 1947, reflecting “basic changes in the level of continuous danger in which mankind lives in the nuclear age.”

The current “setting” is 2 minutes to midnight, reflecting the failure of world leaders to deal with looming threats of nuclear war and climate change. This is the clock’s closest approach to midnight, matching that of 1953,

Bulletin_Atomic_Scientists_Cover

The cover of the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists has featured the famous Doomsday Clock since it debuted in 1947, when it was set at seven minutes to midnight.

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Happy Birthday, Ada Lovelace!

 

Beyond Rochambeau…

There are times when Rock-Paper-Scissors just doesn’t have the…  well, gravity that one feels is appropriate to the question being decided.  Happily, author and blogger Mark Rayner has ridden to the rescue with an altogether apt alternative:  Monkey-Pirate-Robot-Ninja-Zombie

Mark explains:

Each thing can beat two other things, and is, in turn beaten by two other things.

The players both count to five (three), though it is obviously better to repeat the name of the game (Monkey! Robot! Pirate! Ninja! Zombie!). Each time you raise your fist and swing it down. On the fifth (third) count, you form your hand into one of the five gestures. (It is recommended that in addition to the hand gesture, you also add an aural component to this — see below for suggested noises.)

So, what beats what, and what are the gestures? What?

* Monkey fools Ninja
* Monkey unplugs Robot
Suggested noise: ee-ee-eek!

* Robot chokes Ninja
* Robot crushes Zombie
Suggested noise: ex-ter-min-ate!

* Pirate drowns Robot
* Pirate skewers Monkey
Suggested noise: arrrrr!

* Ninja karate chops Pirate
* Ninja decapitates Zombie
Suggested noise: keeee-ah!

* Zombie eats Pirate
* Zombie savages Monkey
Suggested noise: braaaaaaaaaainsss!

See the hand gestures illustrated here.

As we approach big decisions with a deeper sense of propriety, we might recall with horror that it was on this date in 1613 that The Globe Theatre, which had been built in 1599 by Shakespeare’s company, the Lord Chamberlain’s Men, was destroyed by fire.  Shakespeare had retired to Stratford in 1611.

A second Globe was built on the same site; it opened in June, 1614, and closed in 1642.

Before the fire…

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