Stress, is it progress?

I’ve been arguing with myself about the matter a lot recently. Is stress the right key metric to guide effort?

There once was a time when I worked for a company where stress was the key modus operandus. People are stressed in new and ingenious ways. Computer hardware, operating system, and other software are used, reused and abused to the extreme of human imagination. It isn’t quite stated rule but is de facto law. Fear, uncertainty and doubt, blindly enforced by infants of the industry… mantras repeated quite abstract from their original context and application, or even some of their own concoction:

kill the bug! cut its throat! add a test! bash it in!

Later, these infants grew up, and the company grew up… now I am left to wonder if I made a mistake not accepting all those great practices as my own and had a great time with it?

Roughly, because only paranoid survives, the idea is to place high cognitive load and emotional load on employees. Systems are complicated by multiplicity of undocumented bugs and “standard procedures” employees are essentially punished for not knowing industry non-standards by means of semi-public derisions(eg PR review comments emailed to whole company) to formal performance warnings and unexplained terminations. The added emotional stress induced by stern barks of reprimand, taught to management by relevant corporate department during training, hurts a lot and mainly detracts from meaningful knowledge transfer.

The problem with all this stuff not killing you isn’t that it makes some people better. Mainly it really scars participants. Higher than normal cognitive load makes people more likely to make stupid decisions. I look onto my youthful coworker some times and suspect that I have been accidentally transported to a cross between Harry Porter and the Modern Times… so engrossed in these highly secretive incantations… and fighting an ever lasting fight between good and evil inside repetitive mechanical work for long hours… and then after that we exert our mental and physical selves even more on the treadmill, marathon runs and bike trips, ski slopes or in deep meditation.

Is anybody able to think objectively about normal human experience and sensations? What is normal? Is there a chance that all this stress is the normal and derangement really is just normal human specialization? Is there truth behind the interpretation of PhD as permanently head damaged? (Different school on another beaten path) Are we more susptible to mental influence if we are not stressed? Are we more prone to errors if we are not stressed? Are we less fulfilled if we are less stressed? Do our brains become less efficient at present task if we are not stressed? Or are the opposites true? is it inhuman to want to veg-out on the sofa, kid in tow, watching some cartoon, everyday? I feel like I must have grown up on the wrong side of the moon to need 10 hours of that after work everyday.

How can I tell? How do I know if this is real or another stress enduced hallucination or some kind of mental break down from my inability to accept this reality? How can I be sure what I perceive as coordinated systematic attack on a population of employees is actually that and not an artifact of my observation or just conventional human society operating norms?

How do I know if this isn’t a simulation made by a super AI that was created because we humans stressed the system too much?

Do you know?

Are you sure?

Can you tell me how I can be sure?

If I’m not an engineer any more, the AI probably ate me brains alive! All you can see is an organic exoskeleton a computer acquired some time second decade of 21st century… or rather TS > 1262348789000000000000000

The Bias-Variance Decomposition of Human Inequality

Suppose we have two groups of people experiencing different treatment–there is inequality of benefit between the two groups. We can write the difference between their benefits as:


Usually though, we can inspect the size of inequality using quadratic difference, or the quadratic inequality:


Take the expected value:


And rearrange to produce:


This formula can be read off easily. The quadratic inequality between group having a experience and group having b experience is composed of


the mean difference in benefit, i.e. the mean-induced inequality between the two groups is a primal component of inequality,


which is the internal inconsistency of group a and group b also increases the inequality, but it could be removed by


which says if treatment a and b we’re anti-correlated, then that reduces the quadratic inequality.

To think through an example: suppose I benefit boys by giving or taking money from each by drawing a random number from \mathcal{N}(2,1). The benefit I give to girls is to drawn from a separate \mathcal{N}(1,100). Clearly boys on average receive $1 more than girls. But also there is an interesting difference in experience. Boys will more consistently receive money around $2, where as the the girls would have money taken or given to them with much more variability approaching $1 only when averaging a large number of experiences. It’s hard to say what the psychological effect of the larger variance is. For example is it unfair for boys or for girls if girls are drawn from \mathcal{N}(2,100)? In this analysis we can clearly detect that there is inequality between the two groups and that the inequality is induced by variance of the benefit to girls.

There is an interesting side note from this branch of social science that in such a circumstance, the number of boys we must sample to ascertain a highly likely interval of his mean reward is lower than the number of girls we must see in order to ascertain the same likely interval of her mean reward. So, if the treatment of minority has high enough variability, then it becomes harder to be certain that there is mean-induced inequality. This decomposition enables us to identify such situations.

This is bit of Machine Learning math is really neat! We can now measure inequality in all aspects of life and understand, beyond an average, what is causing inequality and uncertainty.

Where do you live?

It’s march of 2017. Two weeks ago, America has placed an anti-missile facility on a lot in South Korea. If this posts publishes automatically, it’ll either be because we who live in California parishes from a Chinese intercontinental ballistic missile.  Or it may be because I stopped minding my blog.

In either case the situation seems tense. As a resident of California, as a caring human being, I hope this is all for show and no serious escalation occurred. We are the most populus and close point to China. Well with exception of Detroit. But any missile headed east across South Korea has to be headed our way. I hope they are not launched and exploded here.
Let’s hope we survive this one… 🤞

Chinese students

I’m reading an article in San Francisco Chronicle (4/17 article) about how Chinese gained rights to send their kids to School in San Francisco. 

It occurs to me that I have met some exceedingly smart and successful Chinese people who have a few characteristics in common when asked about their Chinese ancestry and its effect on their success

  • America is a meritocracy and they are the proof
  • Swears by a few benefactors who are absolutely benevolent and instrumental putting them on the right path.
  • Repeats pop-wisdom mentras to be elite: network above all else; genetically well disposed with ancient and recent ancestors for proof; being crazy is vital; being different is vital; winning at everything contributes to ability to win at everything else; 

What do these two topics have in common?

Nothing really. These completely westernized Chinese Christians could not get their children to school due to superintendents scorn for Chinese people “a nation of liars … filthy and impure.”

Frankly, I could say the same today, perhaps I too have gained the true American perspective. But Chinese people do lie a lot and are quite impure in some sense and filthy in other ways.

Wait! What about those non-Christian Chinese who did not wear westernized clothing and who did not speak perfect English? What happened to their sob stories? Why was it particularly heinous that people of these attributes could not send their children to school? I suppose they tried harder to get into school.

Today, my friends are almost all saying that top ranked American schools are not worth the effort. There is significant loss of faith in the system: It allocates spaces to students by race.  The system seems to favor smallest most disadvantaged minority and not favor systematically producing productive members of society–it’s a show and not a school.

I’m saddened by this. But I think, at least for most minority from disadvantaged background they gain less from school than better prepared “more advantaged” students.

But that’s only fair.

Some times I don’t want to see minorities succeed. The cost of it is high. If a strange green aliens blob came into my kids classroom and it ask to be part of the class, I would say no. It would distract my kid from studying. It’s green goo might be pregnant with young kids… who knows? Maybe teacher will spend half a class making arrangement for him to show him that America welcomes Aliens that she fail to perform her normal duties for human kids.

I guess I am unsure any more. Was universal health care like this? Are the doctors busy feeding homeless people food through IV’s and not taking care of productive members of our society? Should that matter that some people are minimally productive and should be prioritized before nonfunctional elements of society? Who’s to say? But not being able to say does not deny the possibility of that peioritization having economic and moral superiority!