This simple math example demonstrates how confirmation bias fools you

In my years in London, I have formed some comforts. I like taking the same tube routes and walking the same paths. If the less unknown variables in the route, the more I can focus on listening to podcasts or mulling over concepts I recently read. It doesn’t stop there. I also play Netflix reruns of how I met your mother in the background even though I have seen every episode.

Screen Shot 2016-08-14 at 02.16.21

Ok physics and perception challenging math excites me. I’m an optimist for tech and I cannot wait to see and work on new developments. AI doesn’t scare me one bit and I hope that machine learning delivers more than it’s promising. In fact, when it comes to tech I’m a bit like a kid in a sweet store. I had to code and release a mobile app on the app store, I had to play with machine learning and data processing and right now I love coding the backend for a website. My post grad at UCL will enable me to get my hands of med tech hardware. However, considering some of my boring/lame daily comforts there’s no denying that I’m at least partly a slave to confirmation bias.

Confirmation bias is a tendency to search for and interpret information in a way that confirms preexisting beliefs. Some of my trivial likes and dislikes are irrational and layered with a daily dose of confirmation bias. I hope this isn’t too damaging. The black and white effects of confirmation bias can be demonstrated with a simple number sequence:

sequence = 2, 4, 6

Initially, the pattern jumps out at you. The numbers are rising in twos. Now we can guess three more numbers and the computer can tell us if the guesses fit with the model. We guess numbers that try and confirm our theory: 8, 10, 12. The computer would say yes but the number series is any whole number above zero. If we tried to falsify the theory we would guess numbers that don’t rise in twos and we would see that the positive numbers guessed would be classified as correct by the computer. As you can see with this simple number sequence exercise shows that looking for evidence supporting the claim will confirm patterns that could not be there, even in math so statistics are not safe from confirmation bias.

Ever since I took a mathematical philosophy summer course I have found it useful to apply math logic to situations in order to see if I’m being logical. Of course, I pick and choose when to apply this. Most of the time I’m just as irrational as any other guy. Theoretically I should be eating food that goes against what I think I like in order to truely asses if what like I like the best. However, in this field I value comfort over knowledge and eat foods that have ingredients I know I like. Irrationality just like anyone else gives me comfort. However, we have to keep an eye on it and make sure it doesn’t influence key areas of our ideology. 

 

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