Not all stab wounds are the same—Weekly Wisdom 12th August, 2021

Also, the lies we tell each other and the utility of mathematics.

Hello Everyone

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Sorry for sending this out late this week. My startup is moving faster than expected. Some more works from the archive:

  • Coca-Cola is not your friend: If you are online, you will eventually come across some outrage that lands Google and/or Facebook in hot water. And where there is controversy, there are corporations cancelling ad buys. Because the outrageous situation is against their values. Or is it? I explore the real, nefarious reasons for corporate add boycotts.

This weeks quotes:

Adult Fairy Tales

Modern society is built upon fairy tales. In his talk from 2018, Andrew Kotina, co-founder of Venmo, makes this his central theme. In particular, he talks about his anxiety after graduating college. The expectation that a 23-24 year old to figure out everything is ridiculous.

I interpreted the question[of what to do with my life after college] with an existential gravity that got me crying just like I did when my mom told me Santa Claus was a lie that parents told kids. The idea that you figure out “what you are going to do” with your life when you become an adult and enter the “real world” was another fairy tale from childhood.

—Andrew Kotina, The Emperor Has No Clothes, There is No Santa Claus, and Nothing is Rocket Science

Weaponized Mistake

The prospect of surgery is terrifying by itself. However, after reading The Checklist Manifesto, you will never want to get surgery. The book, by internationally lauded surgeon Atul Gawande, is about organization via checklists. But his inspiration to write the book came from all the mistakes he encountered in operating theater, despite highly experienced staff doing their best. Including this anecdote of stab wound victim in San Francisco. Apparently, the stabbing weapon determines surgical treatment.

There are a thousand ways that things can go wrong when you’ve got a patient with a stab wound. But everyone involved got almost every step right—the head-to-toe examination, the careful tracking of the patient’s blood pressure and pulse and rate of breathing, the monitoring of his consciousness, the fluids run in by IV, the call to the blood bank to have blood ready, the placement of a urinary catheter to make sure his urine was running clear, everything. Except no one remembered to ask the patient or the emergency medical technicians what the weapon was. “Your mind doesn’t think of a bayonet in San Francisco,” John could only say.

—Atul Gawande, The Checklist Manifesto

Imagined Disorder

Mathematics is a tool, like screwdriver. I understand a lot of mathematician would disagree, but in practice, it is a tool. Screwdriver are great fastening screws, not so good at hammering them. Same goes for maths. You can’t force to hammer in a desirable result.

As a formal system, pure math exists only inside our heads. We can try to apply it to the real world, but if we are misapplying it, nothing in the system itself will tell us that we’re making a mistake.

—LessWrong, Your intuitions are not magic

Thank you for joining me this week. If you know some who might enjoy this, please forward this email to them. See you next week.

Mudassir Chapra

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