Rational Fools

Nobel Prize winning economist Amartya Sen, coined the term “Rational Fools” nearly 35 years ago. In his famous paper, Sen criticized the first principle of economics: “Every agent is actuated by only self-interest”. On top of this axiom of rational self-interest lie rational action and rational expectations, leading all the way up to the efficiency of the markets. As mentioned in my earlier post on Galileo, this is basically how science is done: models are devised using abstractions and idealizations. However, if the model turns out to be totally meaningless in explaining the world, then those who stick with such a model are indeed fools, rational fools.

Here is a song that I wrote and animated on such ‘Rational Fools’:

Post Adolescent Idealism? Why psychologizing behavior is APSD: Acute Pseudo-Science Disorder

The travesty that was Bradley Manning’s trial is a topic for another forum. Reading about the court proceedings, what immediately struck me was the psychotherapist’s verdict on Manning’s behavior. He was suffering from “Post Adolescent Idealism”, said the therapist. His bashers took this and other psychological judgements that were passed on Manning (narcissism, obsessive compulsive disorder, gender identity disorder etc), as a clear proof of the fact that he was clueless and made the leaks for ‘personal’ reasons. Some of his sympathizers on the other hand were quick to claim that “post adolescent idealism” is not a pathology but a normal stage of human development. Reading all this, I underwent a severe, almost fatal bout of the WTF disorder (yes, What The F**k). Continue reading Post Adolescent Idealism? Why psychologizing behavior is APSD: Acute Pseudo-Science Disorder

World Bank and Mother India!

So I was queued up at the university train-ticket shop. A middle-aged man was sitting on a sofa while his wife was buying tickets to some destination. Bound by my old habit of starting conversations with total strangers, true to form and tradition, I started a conversation with him. After the initial hi-hello, he asked me, “So what you are you doing here?” “I am a computer science researcher”, I said happily. “And what do you do?” “I am the Chief Economist of the World Bank.” Haha. Just like that! Continue reading World Bank and Mother India!

Eric Schmidt’s Nightmare

The night of the happy day when Eric Schmidt, former CEO of Google had declared to the world that privacy was not that important and that if you have something that you don’t want anyone to know, maybe you shouldn’t be doing it in the first place, he had a dream that he had died and had ascended to heaven. At heaven’s door, he clicked on the button marked “Enter”. Continue reading Eric Schmidt’s Nightmare

Hippocratic oath or Hypocritic oath

I remember around 10 years back, a friend who is a doctor, went to an impoverished locality in Karachi with a team to vaccinate children against some disease(s). Their team was harassed by some ignorant and mostly illiterate people who felt that such vaccination campaigns are part of a “western conspiracy” to harm them. “Why are you sticking needles in our children?” and so forth. This reaction was (is) quite common in Pakistan. However, over the years, some progress had been made in raising peoples awareness about diseases and prevention. These are our local problems. But these problems are exacerbated and whatever little progress that has been made on the local front recedes very quickly, when the imperial machine dives into the thick of things with its cold brutal logic. Here’s one story: Continue reading Hippocratic oath or Hypocritic oath

Abdus Salam and Galileo: The separation of science from religion (and philosophy)

Dr Abdus Salam, the late Pakistani particle physicist is the only Muslim physicist till date to have been awarded the Nobel Prize. Dr Salam was rare among modern day scientists in that he was a devout Muslim. While most modern scientists are not concerned with religious matters, Dr Salam found his inspiration for science in religion. Continue reading Abdus Salam and Galileo: The separation of science from religion (and philosophy)

The Evolution of Human Behavior?

On why scientists should not make unsubstantiated claims in popular science works especially where human beings are concerned

It is quite fashionable these days to try and explain human behavior as a result of evolution through natural selection. Just as a small example, I quote the following from an article by the renowned evolutionary psychologist Steven Pinker : Continue reading The Evolution of Human Behavior?