, 10 tweets, 3 min read Read on Twitter
A mistake that smart people make:


aka "The Fence Paradox"

aka "the brain is a homeostatic machine"

aka "human behavior is dynamic and cannot be analyzed statically"

The image 👆, by @DrCirillo, explains all kind of human tragedies:
- student debt (the loans being the fence)
- why the Anti-Braking System actually *increased* the number of car deaths (the ABS being the fence)
- why some financial regulations & bailouts *cause* crashes
First, read the text in the image 👆.

The core principle behind the Fence Paradox is called risk homeostasis.

Humans adjust their behavior to maximize efficiency/effectiveness while keeping a *perceived* risk threshold constant.

For example… [continues below]

…if a new technology makes it safer to drive at 70mph, then humans would rather drive at 80mph to get home faster rather than keep driving at 70mph and be safer.

(Speed limits do not mitigate the example above, because accidents to not happen because someone was going above the speed limit on a straight road, but because someone did not reduce his speed before a turn on a rainy day because he thought it wasn't risky.)

The Fence Paradox predicts that technologies and policies that eliminates high-frequency incidents increase the damage of low-frequency ones (by virtue of reducing risk perception and thus inviting risk-taking, skewing the "frequence-damage" curve).

As @nntaleb described in Antifragile, lack of stressors is bad for antifragile beings (as we humans are).

And as I described in my essay luca-dellanna.com/fragilization, removal of high-frequency stressors (eg. "scares" or "near misses") leads to fragilization, -> catastrophes.

Many politicians and entrepreneurs tend to support the introduction of technology and policies that would work well if the world was static, but are counterproductive in a dynamic world dominated by second-order effects (in particular, how human behavior adapts).

In such case, they invariably appear right for years, because it takes time for behaviors to adapt and for the low-frequency negative events to surface.

I believe that the Fence Paradox model is very useful in evaluating whether a technology or policy will have a positive or negative overall impact on the safety of people, and should be mastered by anyone who is in a position to propose any of them.

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