Check Availability for 2008

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3 Responses

  1. Whoaa there Mr. Lipshaw – are you aware that that NY Times article you linked to could be construed as not 100% supportive of the global warming message and was in fact kind of mocking of Al Gore?

    If so…Kudos!!

  2. Credit where credit is due: the way you write it, it sounds like Kuran and Sunstein who was writing the article in the Times. It was not, it was John Tierney, and his article was, on the face of it, not that different from a common blog post (Here’s something in the news, and let me demonstrate my craftiness by connecting it to some received wisdom, in order to further my own ideology.)

    Other credit where it could be given: Holman Jenkins of the WSJ had written a very similar column last month on the occasion of the Nobels. He directly referenced Kahneman/Tversky whereas Tierney did not.

    Of course, once you see availability bias in one domain, you should start to see it just about everywhere. Back in 2005, I posited that the blogosphere as we know it showed the same patterns of information cascades (see The New Gatekeepers). People point to something just because others are pointing to something. Like Kuran/Sunnstein, I suggested that better feedback and more deliberation was a remedy. I anticipated something like Digg, but naively assumed that something like it would be used to drive quality, rather than serve as a positive-feedback-reinforcement echo chamber.

    As for poor Mr. Gore, we wonder whether the “availability entrepreneur” tag will stick. At ten syllables, it’s two longer than the old “inventor of the Internet,” and as the founder of Current TV it’s clear he’s an entrepreneur more of what’s available than what is scarce. But I don’t see it become pejorative anytime soon. Even the most noble of us peddle inductive reasoning all the time (one point makes a line!) and the former Vice President is hardly the poster child for it. Was he jumping the gun in the report of the 1997 White House Commission on Aviation Safety and Security, which he chaired? It recommended, amongst other things, that “the FBI and CIA should develop a system that would allow important intelligence information on known or suspected terrorists to be used in passenger profiling without compromising the integrity of the intelligence or its sources.”

  3. Jeff Lipshaw says:

    Valid point. It was an article by Tierney, but it relied extensively on Kuran and Sunstein. My first sentence was not clear.