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Curse of Quantification

Curse of Quantification

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Published by: Sudarshan Gopaladesikan on Dec 10, 2012
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05/31/2013

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Curse of Quantification: How Numbers Dominate Thinking in a Society Driven by MetricsThe curse of quantification occurs almost everywhere in the world, but the scope of this topic
would exceed this paper’s length. Therefore, we will view how the curse of 
quantification combined with various decision making heuristics affects the United Statespopulation. However, a bit of background is first needed. Geert Hofstede, a Dutchresearcher in the field of organizational studies, is widely respected for developing the first 
empirical model of “dimensions“ of national culture, thus establishing a new paradigm for
taking account of cultural elements in economics, organizational cooperation, and decision-making. There are five dimensions of power distance, individualism, masculinity,uncertainty avoidance, and long-term orientation, but we will concern ourselves with the
United State’s score on the last two dimensions. The United States scores
a 46 onuncertainty avoidance and a 29 on long-term orientation. This suggests that Americans aregenerally accepting of uncertainty but their orientation is pragmatically short-term.Therefore, in the business world, businesses measure their performance on a short-termbasis, with profit and loss metrics issued on a quarterly basis. This pressure forperformance around numbers drives individuals to strive for quick, not necessarily proper,results within the work place. The combination of uncertainty avoidance but shot-term
vision causes Americans to believe that there is also a need to have the “absolute truth” in
all matters. As Americans are driven around short quick results around metrics such asgrades in school and money in work, we hope to expose how we are subjecting ourselves tosubservience to numbers, thus causing a whole host of irrationality and biases. By the end,we hope to show a refreshing perspective on how to view numbers and probabilities whenit comes to making and judging upon decisio
ns. The goal isn’t to submit a policy proposal,
 
but rather a New Year’s resolution for people to realize that viewing numbers in a new
framework will reduce negativity such as regret.An American college student approached a professor asking for an extension on the
group term paper. The professor responded by referencing Dan Ariely’s paper on deadlines
by stating that they are arbitrary and thus should be subject to a grade deduction. Not getting the extension the student had hoped for, he was faced with a decision. The decisionwas either to reduce stress socially, mentally, and physically with the cost of a gradededuction or costing social, mental, and physical health for avoidance of a grade deduction.As college is mainly metric-driven by the GPA, it would seem proper for a student to forgohis personal stresses for the avoidance of a grade penalty.Reframing the decision that is to be made using quantification, the student is asked
to “
-
y for some y” his personal stresses to gain some probabilistic x
in the form of asubjectively placed grade. However, this grade is subtracted from the ideal 4.0 GPA a papercan get, so a subtractive notion also occurs during the grading of the paper. Option two asks
the student if he is willing to “+z for some z” by i
mproving upon his personal stress while
taking a “
-g for some grade letter
—g” which is then placed under another probability as it is subjectively graded. A stressful student can’t produce a
well-written paper, and adistressed student will be stressed that the paper was subjected to a deadline penalty.
Using Geert’s cultural dimensions for the United States, the short 
-term expectation of the
grade is what dominates the decision. Since the decision’s main outcome is viewed as a
grade letter that is then converted to a three-digit GPA, it is hard to really understand howprobabilities and taking care of personal stresses can benefit an essay when it is already
 
subjected to a late penalty. The main anchor from start to finish of this decision is the
paper’s gr
ade, thus making it hard to justify any decision that would harm this grade.And this is the curse of quantification. The average probabilities and expectedoutcomes we place on opportunity costs attempt to represent the whole probabilities andexpectatio
n outcome of opportunity costs’ opportunity costs. These expected outcomes are
only seen as a metric because America is fairly concerned with short-term metricperformance in terms of grades and money. In terms of the group paper example, a student would blame his stress for doing not as he would have liked if he handed it on time.However, he would blame himself for forgoing the grade deduction if he turned the paperafter the deadline. Therefore, this causes a situation where regret is almost unavoidablebecause the short-term grade is what the student is basing upon in his private reflection. Asnumbers are this dominating on our thought process, it is quite easy to see in almost everydecision making bias.In philosophy, the principle of rational belief 
states that if a person’s total evidence
supports some statement 
 p
, then the rational epistemic attitude towards
 p
is one of belief.
However if a person’s total evidence goes against some statement, it produces disbelief and
a neutral standing of evidence causes epistemic indifference
therefore causing a
judgment to be made. However, there are three main factors that cause a person’s totalevidence to not be “total”. These are misidentification, misevaluation, and motivational
errors. If a person makes a mistake in about what their total evidence is, they are
mis
identifying what they believe is their total evidence to the proper total evidence.Misevaluation of total evidence occurs when a person can correctly identify the totalevidence regarding
 p
but may improperly weight its support for or against 
 p.
An example of 

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