Arnold Kling  

Cynical about Confidence

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Why the Confident Don't Bet... Corn, God, and Smith...

1. Mike Munger.


The problem is that our last two Presidents, first GWB and now BHO, are freakishly overconfident even by the standards of human males. Neither is capable of imagining that anyone actually disagrees with them, unless the disagreer is evil or a stone idiot.

He refers to a paper by Dominic D. P. Johnson and James H. Fowler, which argues that

overconfidence maximizes individual fitness and populations tend to become overconfident, as long as benefits from contested resources are sufficiently large compared with the cost of competition. In contrast, unbiased strategies are only stable under limited conditions. The fact that overconfident populations are evolutionarily stable in a wide range of environments may help to explain why overconfidence remains prevalent today, even if it contributes to hubris, market bubbles, financial collapses, policy failures, disasters and costly wars

2. Robin Hanson.

Yes, sometimes confidence can be in part about assigning a high probability, or about the robustness of an analysis. But more fundamentally, confidence may be about status moves. It is just that in some circumstances we makes status bids via asserting that some event is high probability

For example, by asserting that the probability of the truth of Keynesian economics is so high that anyone who expresses doubts is either evil or a stone idiot.

[Bryan, too, was struck by what Robin had to say. By the way, this post was scheduled before Bryan's. I am doing more long-range scheduling of posts, in order to try and reinforce a habit of not reacting to short-term stuff.]


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COMMENTS (4 to date)
Tracy W writes:

Is there any human action that Robin Hanson doesn't think is about status moves?

Seth writes:

I think not caring can be mistaken for overconfidence.

I've often thought the world would be better off if more folks were open to the possibility that they might be wrong. But, I'll be the first to admit, I could be wrong about that.

We also seem to teach overconfidence more than we teach open-mindedness. e.g. "Get out and vote" rather than: "Listen to all sides and come to a reasoned conclusion".

Becky Hargrove writes:

I, too, should reinforce not reacting to short term stuff, by not getting too bent out of shape over an overconfident Texan who has stolen Ron Paul's thunder.

Gian writes:

Does 'status competition' has biological underpinnings?
If yes, then it can be subsumed in Darwinian selection.
If not, it should not exist, given non-theist assumptions.

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