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Cowboy Science

I've been thinking about this for a while. I fancy myself a scientist, which means I use the Scientific Method to figure things out. So I make a hypothesis, and try like crazy to falsify it, and at the end maybe there's some interesting not-yet-falsified ideas.

I train myself in all sorts of science, I keep real genuine article scientists as friends and compatriots. But y'know, I probably wouldn't be called a Scientist by the vast majority of people in this day and age.

So I started thinking. What is someone who does science who doesn't have impressive scientific credentials? And I came to - a Cowboy Scientist.

Cowboy Science is trying to figure out how things for practical reasons or for curiosity, not for academic or institutional prestige.

A rancher who tries to figure out what the best mix of water and grazing and movement for his cattle by takes notes, making a guess at what'll work, and testing that guess - he's doing science. But no one would call him a Scientist with a capital S.

Game Theory is Awesome

On DROdio

Have you ever heard of Game Theory?

The basic idea behind Game Theory is that if people act in their own best interests, they will reach a sub-optimal outcome vs. what could be achieved with cooperation.  This is called the "prisoner's dilemma," meaning that if all prisoners at a prison worked cooperatively, they could overwhelm the guards.  But if one of them "defected" and instead looked out for his bests interests by escaping, he as an individual would be better off.  The problem is that if everyone tries to "defect," there's nobody left to work cooperatively - hence, a dilemma.

One offshoot of game theory in the business world (and in politics, as you'll see) is describe as "threat power."  It's described very well here:

"Threat power is the ability of one player to damage another net of the other player's ability to damage him. If you don't care about your life (or your things, your family, convention, public opinion, etc.), you can sustain little damage, in utility terms. Any damage you can inflict is a threat power advantage.

Meaning, if you act just a little crazy, chances are you'll achieve a better outcome than you would if you act completely rationally.  Here's a political example of why it's so hard to combat terrorism:

Have you ever heard of Game Theory? The basic idea behind Game Theory is that if people act in their own best interests, they will reach a sub-optimal outcome vs. what could be achieved with cooperation.  This is called the "prisoner's dilemma," meaning that if all prisoners at a prison worked cooperatively, they could overwhelm the guards.  But if one of them "defected" and instead looked out for his bests interests by escaping, he as an individual would be better off.  The problem is that if everyone tries to "defect," there's nobody left to work cooperatively - hence, a dilemma. One offshoot of game theory in the business world (and in politics, as you'll see) is describe as "threat power."  It's described very well here: "Threat power is the ability of one player to damage another net of the other player's ability to damage him. If you don't care about your life (or your things, your family, convention, public opinion, etc.), you can sustain little damage, in utility terms. Any damage you can inflict is a threat power advantage. Meaning, if you act just a little crazy, chances are you'll achieve a better outcome than you would if you act completely rationally.  Here's a political example of why it's so hard to combat terrorism: That threat power advantage is the problem with terrorists. If terrorists cared about themselves, their neighbors, or their homeland and citizens, they really wouldn't be terrorists. Given some decent explosives, they can damage any democratic sovereign state far more than they can be damaged. Any progress towards their ends will inspire a never-ending chain of terrorism. It's all gain, and no loss, from the terrorist perspective." Game theory affects our daily lives in really powerful ways, and understanding the role it plays in your life is important.

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