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Sunday, December 10, 2023

Survival mistake and screaming under Triglav

By: Edvard Kadič

When the editor invited me to write something for Demokracija from time to time, I was, of course, honoured. But I really did not want to write much about politics, which he also agreed with.

However, this is easier said than done. Politics is so strongly present in our lives today that I often feel as if there are only two choices. Either I pretend that the nonsense we are witnessing on the political stage is simply not there, or I have to find a way to include the influence of politics on my thoughts on everyday life and topics I love in texts so that it will not be too distracting.

In thinking about today’s record, I was thus reminded of a sympathetic occasion that led to a better understanding of an interesting fallacy. It is popularly called survival bias. It seemed to me that it illustrates my thinking so well that understanding it could benefit anyone else.

Battlefield analysis

Like any army, the Americans analysed the events on the battlefields during World War II. Thus, they also monitored the injuries on their planes, which were returning home after facing the enemy’s anti-aircraft defence. They found that most of the holes were on the wings and on the tail, and from this followed the conclusion that these parts needed to be reinforced accordingly. However, during the analysis, a young mathematician of Hungarian descent, Abraham Wald, asked himself an important question. Why reinforce the shot parts, if they were more than obviously allowed to return to base by undamaged parts? The crashed planes were hit elsewhere than the ones that returned.

Stupid decisions that work become great practically overnight

Survival bias is a logical error where in the analysis of survival we focus on people or things that have managed to get through the process of survival, without taking into account those that did not. This means that part of the aspects of the problem are simply ignored. What is more, some aspects cannot actually be considered at all, as they simply do not exist anymore. As a result, it is difficult to understand how the survival process actually works at all, as we only partially know it. Renowned psychologist Daniel Kahneman once wrote that stupid decisions that work become great overnight. We did not make smart decisions at all because of the actions of the stupid, because the stupid worked well enough, and immediately.

A good example are e.g. Friday protesters

Their protest is legitimate, but objectively given the situation with the new coronavirus pandemic, it was actually stupid. But because the police did not (deliberately?) take action and prevent the rallies for the first time, the otherwise stupid move of the activists turned into an “excellent” solution for exercising a political option. In a system where everything that is not explicitly forbidden is allowed, of course, anything that is not prosecuted can be done. If the institutions do not move, the otherwise stupid decision is great, as the former offers a solution. Thus, without a clear condemnation of the highest state bodies, the “stupid” shouting of the left wing activist against Prime Minister Janez Janša on Kredarica will eventually become a “smart” PR solution and part of the strategy of fighting this option. This (unfortunately) means that we are only half a step away from the transfer of aggression from social networks to the streets, where it will eventually fall on everyone.

Namely, the political option to which the mentioned activist belongs has, through the process of transition, “unprotected” left the so-called democratic debate and elections, and it has secured well the courts, the mainstream media, public sector unions, various public services (read: dumps of loyal cadres) and the hinterland of political processes where the activism of today’s post-transition left is actually fuelled. It is an area of non-governmental organisations that, in addition to all the useful and necessary organisations, also enables the survival of extreme activists and collection centres with information about the political space and its actors under the guise of democracy. If I return to the initial question of how to live by invading politics into our lives, at least one of the possible solutions is suggested through the mentioned mistake.

What does a survival bias mean?

The survival bias is actually the fault of resisting “wrong” attacks, strengthening the aircraft body where there are the most holes (e.g. wings), instead of strengthening the parts where a crash will occur in the event of a breakthrough (e.g. engine housing). So we need to strengthen our wall and defence where we are constantly gaining inner peace, and not where we know it is being stolen from time to time. Therefore, monitor the media only as much as is absolutely necessary, use social networks in a planned way, and focus most of your attention on yourself, family and friends, health and your goals, and not only on defending against intruders and competing with people with whom we actually have nothing in common other than living in the same country after some higher mathematics. Alas, let’s not forget to go to the elections and support someone who also has some content in their visions.

Edvard Kadič is a publicist, communication expert, specialising in the field of non-verbal communication. He is also the author of several books.


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