Overcoming Bias

Overcoming Bias is a great blog that explores why we believe and do what we do, why we pretend otherwise, how we might do better, and what our descendants might do, if they don’t all die.

Screen Shot 2015-07-22 at 11.59.19 AMIt is hard resisting the lure of the harpies and accepting the status quo. I hope I can resist throughout my education at Berkeley so that I can come up with some thoughts that will make things better.

“The measure of success is not whether you have a tough problem to deal with, but whether it is the same problem you had last year.”

– John Foster Dulles

I was struck by this graph recently (thanks to Thomas Piketty for making all his data easily accessible over the web – see it here) –

Screen Shot 2015-07-22 at 12.14.31 PMEverywhere changes except for Africa. People keep asking the wrong questions about Africa; they see the wrong problems. They see humanitarian problems, not problems of production. You can identify historical events from the above graph – you can see the World Wars, the War of Independence, the US civil war, China’s economic reforms.

What can you see of Africa’s history? You can see the tail end of slavery and it’s debilitating effect on Africa’s output. And then it goes quiet.

Did the world decide that this was the slice of the pie that it was willing for Africa to produce? Did outside efforts to ‘help’ stop history happening in Africa? Remember colonialism was seen as helping Africa, just as Aid and development are seen as helping today.

Have outside interventions halted the creative destruction necessary for Africa to produce a larger proportion of production?

Are colonialism, aid and development simply methods of control to ensure that Africa knows it’s place and doesn’t take or produce a bigger slice of pie? Our bias is our perception that we have to do something about Africa. Maybe we need to overcome this.

‘In the long run, productivity is everything.’

– John Maynard Keynes

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