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Thread: Making decisions using maths?

  1. #1 Making decisions using maths? 
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    Did anyone see the Horizons doc on BBC about making decisions using maths?

    If you missed it it's on BBC i Player for 6 more days

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/categor...egory%3A200059

    What did you think?

    I think it's ridiculous to base many human decisions on mathematical formulas because there are too many factors to take onto account.

    Or are we really so predictable?


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    Forum Masters Degree bit4bit's Avatar
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    Hi Selene, I didn't watch the documentary yet, but If you think of the brain in terms of nuerons firing, and electrochemical reactions, then it is in fact completely analogous to a computer circuit....I'm not sure whether a digital computer, where operations are boolean logic operations, or an analogue computer, where numbers are processed directly adding 'voltages' (or whatever), would be a more accurate comparison, but at the neural level, there is certainly some finite set of fundamental operations.

    Because of this, my opinion would be that indeed we do operate on some finite set of operations at a small scale, but that the research is a mammoth task, to try and explain human behaviour in terms of what these operations are.....the reason is that a few simple operations get increasingly complex when used together in bigger and bigger 'circuits' (exponentially probably)...and that by the time we are performing even the simplest of human tasks, the operations involved would be phenomenonally large.


    The research is really the revers of AI...which I see in the same light.


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    Quote Originally Posted by bit4bit
    Hi Selene, I didn't watch the documentary yet, but If you think of the brain in terms of nuerons firing, and electrochemical reactions, then it is in fact completely analogous to a computer circuit....I'm not sure whether a digital computer, where operations are boolean logic operations, or an analogue computer, where numbers are processed directly adding 'voltages' (or whatever), would be a more accurate comparison, but at the neural level, there is certainly some finite set of fundamental operations.

    Because of this, my opinion would be that indeed we do operate on some finite set of operations at a small scale, but that the research is a mammoth task, to try and explain human behaviour in terms of what these operations are.....the reason is that a few simple operations get increasingly complex when used together in bigger and bigger 'circuits' (exponentially probably)...and that by the time we are performing even the simplest of human tasks, the operations involved would be phenomenonally large.



    The research is really the revers of AI...which I see in the same light.

    That's a bit technical for me! I didn't understand some of the terms you used, but i understand that what you're saying is that processes follow the same patterns in the brain depending on what's being fired up, and those processes are probably the same for all of us. So in those terms we probably could, using maths, perform calculations to explain what's going on.
    But as for using calculations to decide which is the best decisions seems a bit far fetched, because these processes are overlayed with our own personal views and perceptions as well as values and meanings we give to things, which are different for all of us.
    In the documentary one of the experiments it did was to take some guys who didn't have girlfriends and try to predict accurately as possible which girls in a bar they were likely to succeed getting a date with.
    One of the important factos in this experiment was the attraction factor. If the guy thought he and the girl he had in mind were of similar attractiveness ratings they were more likely to succeed, and even more so if the guy rated himself as more attractive than the girl.
    In this experiment it's possible that he could be wrong by giving himself a higher rating than the girl would, and maybe she might even rate herself higher, when he rated himself lower. So there are lots of discrepancies and varients, possibly too many.
    I think what's happening here is that by just analysing the situation and comparing their attractiveness to the women, these guys were just gaining a little more self confidence. They were also under alot of pressure to get a date with these girls so they would have probably tried harder than they normally would have done.

    If you have time watch it and see what you think.
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    Forum Masters Degree bit4bit's Avatar
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    I think what's happening here is that by just analysing the situation and comparing their attractiveness to the women, these guys were just gaining a little more self confidence. They were also under alot of pressure to get a date with these girls so they would have probably tried harder than they normally would have done.
    Yeh I watched that part, and would agree with that.

    However, human beings are unfortunately extremely susceptible to influence, and while I sometimes regard things like sociology and psychology as being psuedo-ish for predicting specific situations, they can be in GENERAL very powerful tools. We are almost all guilty of being so controllable, and almost all without realising it. The best example I can think of is shopping centres....When you walk into a shopping centre EVERY aspect of that centre has been designed to make you spend more money....in shops, you have bright signs that catch your eye, and even the tempo of the music is designed to set the customers walking speed and mood....this is very true - people (in general) walking through a shopping centre will walk at the same speed...which is in fact dictated by the tempo of the music..

    On a larger scale such as the video discusses, I think our behaviours are extrememly predictable, and therfore controllable..which is what western commerce relies on.

    However I don't think the ewquations can sum up individuals behaviours in every case at all, because the human mind is different for everyone....we have just all been programmed with the same stuff.
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    Quote Originally Posted by bit4bit
    I think what's happening here is that by just analysing the situation and comparing their attractiveness to the women, these guys were just gaining a little more self confidence. They were also under alot of pressure to get a date with these girls so they would have probably tried harder than they normally would have done.
    Yeh I watched that part, and would agree with that.

    However, human beings are unfortunately extremely susceptible to influence, and while I sometimes regard things like sociology and psychology as being psuedo-ish for predicting specific situations, they can be in GENERAL very powerful tools. We are almost all guilty of being so controllable, and almost all without realising it. The best example I can think of is shopping centres....When you walk into a shopping centre EVERY aspect of that centre has been designed to make you spend more money....in shops, you have bright signs that catch your eye, and even the tempo of the music is designed to set the customers walking speed and mood....this is very true - people (in general) walking through a shopping centre will walk at the same speed...which is in fact dictated by the tempo of the music..

    On a larger scale such as the video discusses, I think our behaviours are extrememly predictable, and therfore controllable..which is what western commerce relies on.

    However I don't think the ewquations can sum up individuals behaviours in every case at all, because the human mind is different for everyone....we have just all been programmed with the same stuff.
    Knowing how easily we can be influenced (thanx to Derren Brown and many other mental magicians) i often stop myself when i have an inclination to make an impulsive decision and consider the opposite options. I have to say that quite often the opposite when realized can often be a the better option to pick! Bizarre?
    i pods are a great tool to overcome subtle brainwashing in shopping centers as well as cultivating a healthy cynicism towards 'special offers'. If it's an offer 'that's too good to be true' then it most probably is

    That's true that bit about people being more susceptible to irrational decisions when they feel they might be missing out on something (which is why 'sales' always work, even tho most of the stuff is crap!)

    I got locked into one of these auctions once. A shop temporarily got taken over and there were loud speakers blaring out details of an auction for fantastic bargains. Of course loads of people started gathering in the shop (wondering obviously they might be missing something good!) Then the fuckers locked the door. I stayed not to buy anything (i didn't have any spare cash) but because i was intrigued.

    At first they started almost giving away stuff like tv's and hi-fi's dirt cheap and then they started selling selections of 'goodies' in black bin bags. You should have seen the crowd almost fighting to pull out money and get one, thinking they were missing out on a great bargain. When they unlocked the door and hussled us out, there was a lot of angry people opening the bag to find they had forked out for utter crap! But these guys weren't breaking any laws, they were just making the most of this aspect of human nature that becomes irrational because it panics when it thinks it's missing out!

    Throw a handful of tenners in the air and no doubt sane rational people will become temporarily wild and insane in grabbing for as much as possible!
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    I know what you mean, if there's anyhtink I can't stand it's being controlled, and I always try and rationalise the situation when there is risk involved, no matter how straighforward things appear to be.

    Speaking of that 'auction' you went to, I actually worked for a big electrical retailer selling computers a while ago, where we also did things like that. You'd be surprised also at how much goes on behing the scenes. The environment created between sales people is very competitive, due to the way it's all set up by the management putting on pressure and rewarding commision appropriately. Because of that, everyone tries to make the most sales, and will actually try much harder to avoid being singled out as a lousy worker. Couple that with the training they gave us on how to categorize different types of customer, and formulate empathetic responses to each one, to put ourselevs in their shoes (etc.etc)....when really all we are doing is guiding them into the sale. (edit: convincing customers that they quite literally "wont be safe" unless they have a certain product or insurance for that product is another key selling teqnique...just as the video discussed).

    ...Salesmen will try almost anything to get the sale, and the teqniques they taught us I've been recognizing at more and more different UK shops...obviously the first sign is when the staff in a shop are so keen to help you, and approach you off of their own back. It's an effective way to 'force' sales, and more retailers are realising it. Again, immense research goes into the exact layout of shops too, and the shopping environment, down to placement of offers, and different priced items to isle spacing, isle length, location of toilets (If a big outlet)...absolutely everything.


    Another relevant thing to this is the amount of money making scams there are. They all rely on creating confusion in peoples minds, and taking advantage of it. The "Real Hustle Las Vegas" had some absolute prime examples of this (dunno if you watched that?...might be on iplayer), including one of my favourites...the change raising scam...which I've seen people do before...and it actually works brilliantly.
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  8. #7 making decisions using maths? 
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    the decisions taken using maths are often based on patterns which are apparent. the whole problem starts when you try to explain facts with the help of some math theory.
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