Saturday, May 23, 2009

Conpiracy theories debunked

Have you ever heard a theory that sounds ridiculous at first? It doesn't make sense and requires lots of explanation for it to come together. Call me skeptical, but my experience has been that the vast majority of these "conspiracy theories" are bologna. Nine times out of ten, the simplest explanation is the correct explanation.

A few years ago, I watched a movie with my cousins about how 9/11 "really happened." It explained that the government had really ordered the attack to give it motivation to go after other countries. The hour-long film was pretty convincing and did a wonderful job of arousing an emotional response. I was confused. Then Google came to my rescue. After searching for a response to the 9/11 conspiracy theory, I found a very succinct and comprehensive rebuttal to all the arguments presented in the conspiracy theory. This experience opened my eyes to how I approach digesting theories that don't jive well with me.

A lot of the reason that people latch onto beliefs that seem kind of weird is because of an emotional response triggered and a failure to research the other side of the issue. Here is a list of other conspiracy theories that I hear people believing in.
  • There is a cure for cancer that is being suppressed by the medical community because they are making so much money off of cancer.
  • The US never landed on the moon.
  • Big oil businesses are suppressing technology that fuels cars with just water.
  • The government has secret UFO and alien materials, but won't release it to the public.
  • Global warming is not happening. The only reason for society's focus on global warming is because the media is liberal. Because the media popularizes global warming, representatives make it a big deal to get elected.
  • Elvis is still alive.
  • The US only invades Iraq for their oil.
Remember, you can find answers to any question using Google. It's amazing.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Is optimism-bias a good or bad thing?

I've been thinking a lot about risk-taking lately. For better or worse, I have always been someone who takes risks at a higher-than-is-normal rate. In my Contracts class last fall, I learned about the concept optimism-bias. This concept is interesting. Often times humans are overly optimistic in themselves to their detriment. The example we studied was signing away your rights to engage in a risky activity believing you are the exception and that no harm will come to you. For instance, a river rafting trip has a lot of risks. There might be a pretty compelling reason to forgo the trip, however, lots of people take the risk anyway. I looked up some other examples of optimism bias on wikipedia: Students overestimate their own test scores. Grad students overestimate the number of job offers and salary they eventually will get. Almost all newlyweds think their marriages will last for life, well aware of high divorce statistics. Those who smoke believe they are less at risk to suffer from smoking-related disease than others who smoke.

I think that it is fantastic that we have optimism-bias hard-wired into us. Sometimes I have been burned by my optimism-bias. I have plenty of scars, have gone into debt, and even worked for free as a direct result of risks. But I have also been rewarded. One obvious example is the huge amount of time I invested into learning HTML and PHP. I think I will capitalize on these skills for the rest of my life.

Living in America allows this optimism to shine. You listen to someone's rags to riches story and even though you may not have any similar skills or talents as this person, the story inspires you. You believe in yourself, and believe that you can achieve similar success. And then you strive for something that pushes you further than you would have gone had that distant target never been there. Without an impetus to propel me further, I would sit still and stagnate.

The key to risk-taking is for a healthy balance between the two extremes. In business, too much risk leads to epic financial crises. Not enough risk leads to stagnation. But risks are absolutely a good thing (in moderation of course [but not too much moderation {it needs to be a wise amount and level of riskiness}]).

Optimism-bias may be one magical factor that sets us apart as uniquely human. If we were completely logical, and we made decisions based on mathematical probabilities, we would be robots; robots that probably wouldn't achieve as much as we humans have and will achieve.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Things I've learned while on the East coast

Hello blogosphere. My second semester of law school is done. It was very difficult, but I think i did alright. Tomorrow I will be driving back to Utah for the summer and it got me thinking about my trip out east. Exactly 2 years ago I bid Utah farewell and embarked on my journey to Boston. It is unreal to think back on all the experiences, friendships, and opportunities I've had in such a short amount of time. What have I learned? Here is a short non-exhaustive list.

I like school when I don't have distractions - Learning is fun, hands down. I get turned off by the intense and competitive nature of learning at school. But when I don't have any distractions, school can be fun, even when it's law school.
Girl Power - I had always been under the traditional school of thought in regards to women before moving out east. Then I met amazing women who branched out my mind. I now wholeheartedly support women doing whatever they want with their lives. I acknowledge that may sound sexist because it may seem obvious to some, but I have recently learned this. I wanted to thank everyone who has helped me realize this: Heidi, Michelle, Kristie, Katrina, andmy con law professor who taught us about equal protection rights.
Buying the highest octane gas does not give you better gas mileage - In fact, if you buy higher octane fuel than your car's needs, it is counterproductive.
There is a disparity between English/British on Wikipedia - Have you ever been checking out a Wikipedia entry and noticed some funky spelling going on? That is because the English version of Wikipedia merges all flavors of English into one. This is trouble for a Wikipedian such as myself, who prides himself in regularly fixing spelling and grammar mistakes.
Eating apples fresh from the orchard is 100 times better than eating an apple from the grocery store. I was blown away when I tried this last fall.
Hairspray - I only recently discovered this amazing product. As much as people give hairspray a bad rap for killing the ozone layer, it fulfills a vital role for certain hair textures like mine.
I have a passion for education - If I ever have kids, I want them to be smart. There are so many advantages when you are smart.
Me? Smart? No way! - The past couple years have taught me about my own level of intelligence. This is not an attempt to practice being modest or humble: compared to people all around me, I am not very smart.
I work harder than others - I think this is a mechanism that I have that makes up for my lack of smarts: hard work. It's amazing what you can do when you work harder than almost everyone else around you.
I am so similar to my dad - It's crazy I would really figure this out by living 2000+ miles away from him.
I never knew that a guy and a girl could spend so much time together as my roommate and his gf do. At first, I was taken aback by it and thought that maybe I needed to work on getting close to people like them. But after thinking about it, I decided that just was not my style. Nope.
Pepperidge Farms bread is the best on the face of the planet - What am I going to do when I go back to Utah where there is none?
East coast hot dog buns are weird, and they are also slightly inferior.
Kissing someone for the first time doesn't mean anything - Actually, I take that back. You're not gonna kiss someone you are not attracted to or that you wouldn't mind stepping the relationship up a notch. So I guess, kissing denotes attraction and/or you wanna take it to the next level. That's all it means tho, at least to me.
Apples give you negative calories when you take into consideration the work needed to eat it
You can make home-made cheese - I found this out from a true food specialist. Her name is Lillian and she goes to law school with me. She is great.
I hate the word "mingle" - Some synonyms I found on intermix, work the room, hobnob, and socialize. Any other suggestions?
I love making websites - Hit me up if you want to collaborate on a project. I'll be more than happy to chat. This summer I have no concrete plans for employment which means I'll have a lot of time to invest.
I've learned to relate to people better - Have you ever wanted to be liked by people more in your life? Well for just 15.95, click here to buy my book and I'll tell you all about it.
Social networking is where it's at - I have discovered Digg, Twitter, Youtube all to be wonderful tools for networking.
I am a better Othello player than most - Tina, you better get practicing because I won't back down from you.

Well that's it. Utah, here I come! Now I need to get back into Utah stuff. When in Rome do as the Romans do. I need to get my Utah vocab and accent back. Maybe I'll start watching Fox News. Maybe I'll cut my hair. Well, I better get back to packing up my crap. This summer is going to be so fetchin' FUN!