Talon Talk – Survivor Bias

Shoutout to Elyjah for helping me build the town that we got to burn. It was LIT.

I apologize for the terrible keying and lighting, as my house has bad lighting and I don’t have any good portable lights. Also my skin is green from the greenscreen reflecting light. I also apologize for the terrible audio, as I placed my phone with the mic down, so that was even worse, and I ended up using my camera microphone, which is really bad. Anyways, it’s the content that matters, so just watch the video.

Script:

https://docs.google.com/document/d/1Ln4UOiTo7RT3DQyp_6luH7d4vfpW3DW4DcE3v5RedgI/edit?usp=sharing

Notes:

https://docs.google.com/document/d/1Ig7TH_ucGj8iB6VVQUOPR74SdKBj03SJt9aroK8i2Ps/edit?usp=sharing

Bibliography:

https://docs.google.com/document/d/1BQ_ZkE8gbWo1Buxte0EclrJbFEt6pLw7bSReSo9WMvQ/edit?usp=sharing

Comments

  1. There is an interesting truth to this. I’ve always known that what I see on the news is merely the extreme events, but I didn’t realize that survival bias was all around us… (I didn’t even know there was a name for it to be honest.) You did a really good job of convincing me how big a problem survival bias is, which is the main point of a ted talk, according to the mock talk that we watched in class. (Maybe there might be a bit of survival bias in how you convinced us so well, but I’m not sure how, I don’t have a keen eye yet.) I didn’t even clue in to the fact that we should put armour on the planes in the spots not hit, on the planes that survived, and it kind of made me feel stupid… But at the same time, glad that I had learnt something. I like how you slowed down your voice a lot compared to how you usually talk, it made it a lot easier for me to follow. Overall a job really well done. I do have one point though, which maybe I’m just blinded by bias; but the videos that you showed of modern buildings falling over, were all skyscrapers. I think that if taller building were created centuries ago, fewer of them would still be around, because of the lack of sturdy building materials. Had this occurred, would we just hear even more about the buildings that still remain, or would we hear about the time that super tall building, collapsed with devastating results…? It might be something to think about.
    ps, that village example really helped, and made it much easier to understand

    • Thanks for the well written feedback Mackenzie.
      In response to your question, if there were larger/taller structures that had collapsed, we definitely would hear about them, however, as there isn’t as much evidence for them, less attention would be put on those compared to the ones that survived. The only evidence would be historical records, which isn’t as amazing to the general public as something like the Roman colosseum. Not only that, a lot of older structures that happened to be bigger, also had the benefit of better materials(normally) and construction techniques, as larger structures were typically contracted by the rich, who would want them to be as grand as possible. This also means that a lot of the structures that are still around are a lot more elaborate than those that have diminished over time.
      Glad you enjoyed my talk and learned something new.

  2. Hello Nathan,

    I found you topic very interesting, and it inspired a part of me to think about this more than I had before.
    I was wondering what exactly the approximated amount of buildings that have been toppled from that Buddhist monasteries design/time in percent form

    Thanks, Owen

    • I don’t have an actual number to bring up as to how many buildings have toppled compared to the one’s that didn’t, but because of survivor bias, that number would be hard to find, as there is less evidence for the ones that did topple. I would assume it to be around 95%+, as most of them have toppled, and even in my example, only the phoenix hall remains standing from it, and the rest of it has crumbled.
      Happy to hear that I was able to inspire you to think about something more than you normally would.

  3. Awesome TED Talk, Nathan! I really enjoyed it – the “experiments” and games that you presented to the viewer definitely kept me engaged for the whole talk. I especially was captivated by the model of the town, and the British army plane diagram (which I thought you were wrong for the longest time before it all made sense). You also spoke very clearly, and took important pauses for dramatic effect. As you mentioned in your post, the lighting did cause a bit of a distraction, as it was difficult to see you make facial expressions when you were speaking. I do have a few questions – are there any reports or studies that have been completed about survivor bias? Why are humans so swayed and attracted to stories about survivor bias – is it a psychological thing?

    Also, in your car/plane discussion, you based your theory off of deaths per miles traveled. However, with flights usually being much longer in distance than car trips, wouldn’t it be a more reasonable argument to compare the number of deaths per flight compared to the number of deaths per drive?

    Amazing job – it was very provocative, covered the subject very well, and was easy to understand.

    Lucas

    • A lot of people have asked about survivor bias being a physiological thing, so I’m just going to copypasta my explanation for that:
      The reason why we hear most stories that we think are interesting, even if they are a distorted view of reality, is that the majority of people fall into a minority number of groups(think personality, taste and what your interests are). Basically what I mean is that the majority of people are in similar “categories” and the majority of categories have less than the majority of people. In this regard, the stories that do well on the news are the ones that most people like/will click on. The odds of an individual falling within one of those majority groups, is a majority percent, meaning that most people like similar things, hence the reason that survivor bias gives the majority of people interesting stories.

      Thanks for the great feedback, I’ll try to get better lighting next time as now I realize that it isn’t just to make it look nice, rather it can allow me to convey facial expressions better.

      As for the studies and reports on survivor bias, there are few, but most of them are small and not all that accurate, as the effects caused by survivor bias affects billions of people, which is almost impossible to measure.

      As for the whole car/plane units being wrong, yes you are right about plane flights being a lot longer, however people take them less often, meaning that deaths by them are even less common.

  4. Awesome. Don’t worry about the lighting/sound quality, you did a great job explaining your topic. The “slides” definitely helped, they were utilized effectively. Your tone is an improvement from other presentations you have done. Overall, I found it very interesting, I learned a lot.

    • Thanks for the feedback and glad you learned a lot. Thanks for helping me with the experiment and ideas you gave me.

  5. This was a really cool way to tackle the topic, Nathan! Despite the weird lighting, the content was really good, and presented in a thoughtful and organized manner. You spoke a lot slower than you usually would, so I actually understood what you were talking about, and you kept the audience engaged throughout. Really well done, Nathan, the only question I still have is is there a psychological explanation for survivor bias? (I’m sorry if this is a dumb question)

    • A lot of people have asked about survivor bias being a physiological thing, so I’m just going to copypasta my explanation for that:
      The reason why we hear most stories that we think are interesting, even if they are a distorted view of reality, is that the majority of people fall into a minority number of groups(think personality, taste and what your interests are). Basically what I mean is that the majority of people are in similar “categories” and the majority of categories have less than the majority of people. In this regard, the stories that do well on the news are the ones that most people like/will click on. The odds of an individual falling within one of those majority groups, is a majority percent, meaning that most people like similar things, hence the reason that survivor bias gives the majority of people interesting stories.

      Appreciate your insight to my talk, and yes, I did slow down my talking speed a lot, which was felt really awkward, but actually turned out better than I expected.

  6. Great talk Nathan. I loved how you utilized the green screen and make your talk look very professional. It looks like you had a great time conducting some experiments but all in all, those experiments kept me engaged. Your topic wasn’t a basic choice and it was very unique. How badly do you think survivor bias distorts reality? And are many people psychologically drawn more towards survivor bias stories?

    • A lot of people have asked about survivor bias being a physiological thing, so I’m just going to copypasta my explanation for that:
      The reason why we hear most stories that we think are interesting, even if they are a distorted view of reality, is that the majority of people fall into a minority number of groups(think personality, taste and what your interests are). Basically what I mean is that the majority of people are in similar “categories” and the majority of categories have less than the majority of people. In this regard, the stories that do well on the news are the ones that most people like/will click on. The odds of an individual falling within one of those majority groups, is a majority percent, meaning that most people like similar things, hence the reason that survivor bias gives the majority of people interesting stories.

      You also asked for how bad I think survivor bias distorts reality, and personally, I think it does a lot. The fact that there are billions of people on this planet and we only hear from a few of them, really puts it into perspective.

      Thanks for the feedback, the experiments were fun to do(burning things are always fun).

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published / Required fields are marked *