The Abilene paradox

The previous post on the Asoh defense led me to another real gem, the Abilene paradox.

Where I work, they have something called “disagree and commit“. It’s a good principle if it works, and when there is ample time to discuss, as this post explains. It tends to get a bit scary when the discussion bit is omitted (by fear of displeasing management or whatever the reason may be), and people end up with the Abilene paradox. This is a paradox in which a group of people collectively decide on a course of action that is counter to the preferences of any of the individuals in the group. It involves a common breakdown of group communication in which each member mistakenly believes that their own preferences are counter to the group’s and do not raise objections. Scary, isn’t it? The paradox is usually inllustrated by the below story:

“On a hot afternoon visiting in Coleman, Texas, the family is comfortably playing dominoes on a porch, until the father-in-law suggests that they take a trip to Abilene [53 miles north] for dinner. The wife says, “Sounds like a great idea.” The husband, despite having reservations because the drive is long and hot, thinks that his preferences must be out-of-step with the group and says, “Sounds good to me. I just hope your mother wants to go.” The mother-in-law then says, “Of course I want to go. I haven’t been to Abilene in a long time.”

The drive is hot, dusty, and long. When they arrive at the cafeteria, the food is as bad. They arrive back home four hours later, exhausted.

One of them dishonestly says, “It was a great trip, wasn’t it.” The mother-in-law says that, actually, she would rather have stayed home, but went along since the other three were so enthusiastic. The husband says, “I wasn’t delighted to be doing what we were doing. I only went to satisfy the rest of you.” The wife says, “I just went along to keep you happy. I would have had to be crazy to want to go out in the heat like that.” The father-in-law then says that he only suggested it because he thought the others might be bored.

The group sits back, perplexed that they together decided to take a trip which none of them wanted. They each would have preferred to sit comfortably, but did not admit to it when they still had time to enjoy the afternoon.”

Sounds familiar?

The Asoh Defense

The Asoh Defense is real simple:
If at first you don’t succeed … just admit it. “Yup, my fault, I f***ed up.
Not something you ever really here in the corporate world, do you?

Click here for the story behind the Asoh defense.

The part where they link it to the organizations really hits home. In a lot of a corporate cultures, the reality is more that of “crime and punishment”; something goes wrong and the great game of “Scape Goat” starts where everyone runs and hides while trying to find someone to be “it”.

Through MetaFilter.

Dumb moves on facebook

Imagine telling your boss you’re off for a family emergency.
Imagine going to a halloween party instead.
Imagine posting a picture of you at the party on facebook.
Imagine your boss also being on facebook.
you can imagine the result here.

Was the Matrix wrong?

Troed made an interesting comment yesterday: statistically there is a high probability that we are all avatars. Welcome to our self-chosen Matrix… Read all about the debate on the simulation argument website

The site is a debate about the possibility that we may be living in a simulation. A brief introduction is in order. The paper on the site argues that at least one of the following propositions is true:

i. It is possible that a civilization could create a computer simulation which contains individuals with artificial intelligence.
ii. Such a civilization would likely run many – say billions – of these simulations (just for fun; for research, etc.)
iii. A simulated individual inside the simulation wouldn’t know that it’s inside a simulation – it’s just going about its daily business in what it considers the “real world”.

Then the ultimate question is – if one accepts that points 1-2-3 are at least possible, which of the following is more likely?

a. We are the one civilization out there in the universe that will eventually develop the ability to run AI simulations? Or,
b. We are one of the billions of simulations that has run? (Remember point iii.)

While you’re at it, take some time to read the simulated reality wiki.

I did get a funny feeling when reading Troeds post on the Matrix … I don’t think I would want to spend my life in a pod, no matter how good the reality. I think I’d end up taking the red pill. But then again … how would I know? (Remember point iii.)

WiFi Positioning systems

Today I came across Skyhook‘s Wi-Fi Positioning System (WPS). It’ s a “location platform” that uses the native 802.11 radio in your PC (or even your smartphone) to deliver accurate positioning.

After installing the Loki plugin from the site (actually a product of Skyhook Wireless), my laptop is now able to find its position thanks to a triangulation using WiFi access points around me (provided that the region has been mapped by Skyhook), and I can use it for driving directions or finding businesses in my surroundings. No hardware needed, just a plugin for the browser. And … it works indoors and outdoors, handy when you’re sitting in an office or a hotel room and trying to find your way around.

Skyhook calls it a “metro-area positioning system” that leverages Wi-Fi instead of satellites or cell towers to deliver precise location data supporting the growing market for location-based services.