Sunday, April 28, 2019

Word of the Day: Epiphenomena

Life can only be understood backwards; but it must be lived forwards. -Soren Kierkegaard

ep·i·phe·nom·e·non /ˌepēfəˈnämənän,ˌepēfəˈnämənən/
A secondary effect or byproduct that arises from but does not causally influence a process.
A secondary symptom, occurring simultaneously with a disease or condition but not directly related to it.
A mental state regarded as a byproduct of brain activity.

Cause and Effect

In his book, AntiFragile, Nassim Taleb has a section on ephiphenoma.  Humans can be really bad about determining cause and effect.  It is something that Clive Granger won a nobel prize for clarifying how to mathematically determining whether something caused something else by studying sequencing of events.

Here is an excellent video on the subject:


Part of the problem we have with cause in effect is the fact that our brains work backwards to retrieve memories making it more difficult for us to determine chicken and egg arguments.

The human brain works backwards to retrieve memories. Summary: When we remember a past event, the human brain reconstructs that experience in reverse order, according to a new study. ...

Cherry Picking

cher·ry-pick·ing /ˈCHerēˌpikiNG/
The action or practice of choosing and taking only the most beneficial or profitable items, opportunities, etc., from what is available.
"It is an exaggeration based on the cherry-picking of facts"

Nassim Talib also mention that, while we tend to be skeptical about advertising, people are often suckered by scientific research due to its sophistication. Research should be treated more skeptically because it tends to cherry pick information to support its thesis. People should put more weight on negative information very little of it is often reported.

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