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Crowd behavior and some aimless rambling April 16, 2007

Posted by Sharath Rao in America, life.
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Just one link today – quite an amazing experiment in urban crowd behavior.

From here.

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In addition to being dangerous at worst and waste of time at best, questions that start with “what if” have another utility, at least as it appears to me. Such questions are like mathematical models that make unreasonable assumptions that may bear no resemblance to the real-world, but are still instructive and help us develop a first-order understanding of the phenomena being modeled. Moreover, they behave well under extreme ( or one may say asymptotic) conditions which is to be welcomed because some questions of life are clearer in the limit.

To give an example – I hear/see people around me hold on to beliefs – cultural, religious and political – beliefs while still knowing their idea of ‘truth’ would have been entirely different if they were born into a different set of circumstances. That is when the question of whether they own their beliefs or their beliefs own them ( and in effect they are tricked by their beliefs) becomes relevant. When it becomes clear that what we think is true, is true because of our circumstances rather than in spite of them, it is time to understand the problem deserves more nuance than it is currently being subjected to.

As Paul Graham says albeit in a different context :

I think with some effort you can make yourself nearly immune to tricks. It’s harder to escape the influence of your own circumstances, but you can at least move in that direction. The way to do it is to travel widely, in both time and space. If you go and see all the different kinds of things people like in other cultures, and learn about all the different things people have liked in the past, you’ll probably find it changes what you like.

That makes it 2 links :-).

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