Overestimating the Short-term vs Underestimating the Long term

Venkatesh Rao
refers to this quote by Roy Amara

“We always overestimate the change that will occur in the next two years and
underestimate the change that will occur in the next ten.”

Anecdotally it’s true and Venkatesh hypothesizes that this is because
even though we(our brains) are comfortable with arithmetic, they are
handicapped when it comes to exponential thinking.

Now this stuck me as a testable hypothesis. Atleast as far as the number
arithmetic goes. For the exponential thinking, it gets more muddled.
By context we do get a sense of what he means, but trying to measure it is a harder task.

And another thought is the question of actionability. I know it’s a management
buzz word, so use affordance instead, if you prefer,but the point am trying to make here is, we humans are biased towards
calculations/predictions that allow us to make clear actions. In some ways,
this can be equated to the fear of the uncertain.Evolutionarily it seems common
sense to assume a roar that sounds like a tiger to be a tiger, while a flower
that seems to be that of an edible fruit doesn’t make any immediate action
possible and has the potential to be a pain(imagine a poisonous plant ) if you’re wrong.sure,it might also be a useful fruit, but there’s a waiting time involved. So overestimate the
short-term negative potential and underestimate the long-term positive
potential. That way you can take evasive action.

Not sure evolutionary biologists would agree with that reasoning or not.Please chirp in if you are one.

On the other hand, the first thing that it reminded me is of
Kahnemann-Tversky’s prospect Utility theory.

And just jumping the gun to the next part i found interesting is that
free-association comment. I haven’t really tried just-add writing till now,
because i have wanted structure in my writing and unstructured writing disturb
me.Anyway, it seems to be true free-association is necessary, but also it will
be hindering the reader if it’s too free (Think flight of ideas which incidentally is a symptom of schizophrenia). I remember reading Virginia Woolf and
found that writing hindering. On the other hand, Douglas Adams employs this
free-association(although in a limited sense), but he uses it in a very
satirical manner.

P.S: I was curious about his motif being more general comment(I thought outside music it was just a metaphor,but was wrong) and looked it up. Turns out it just means something that occurs repeatedly and is salient. Or as merriam-webster puts it “usually recurring salient thematic element” interestingly it originates from french “motive” A whole interesting post can be spun on the roots and it’s current meaning(i.e main repeated theme in a music.).


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