Notes from 9/3–16/3

The Psychology of Human Misjudgment, by Charlie Munger

  1. First. Under recognition of the power of what psychologists call reinforcement and economists call incentives
  2. My second factor is simple psychological denial
  3. Third. Incentive-cause bias
  4. Fourth, and this is a superpower in error-causing psychological tendency, bias from consistency and commitment tendency, including the tendency to avoid or promptly resolve cognitive dissonance
  5. And all these things like painful qualifying and initiation rituals, all those things, pound in your commitments and your ideas
  6. Sixth. Bias from Pavlovian association, misconstruing past correlation as a reliable basis for decision-making
  7. Seventh. Bias from reciprocation tendency, including the tendency of one on a roll to act as other persons expect
  8. Eight. Now, this is a lollapalooza, and Henry Kaufman wisely talked about this, bias from over-influence by social proof, that is, the conclusions of others, particularly under conditions of natural uncertainty and stress.
  9. Nine. Bias from contrast caused distortions of sensation, perception, and cognition.
  10. Bias from over-influence by authority
  11. Bias from Deprival Super Reaction Syndrome, including bias caused by present or threatened scarcity, including threatened removal of something almost possessed but never possessed. Here I took the Munger dog, a lovely harmless dog.
  12. Bias from envy/jealousy
  13. Bias from chemical dependency
  14. Bias from gambling compulsion
  15. Bias from liking distortion, including the tendency to especially like oneself, one’s own kind, and one’s own idea structures, and the tendency to be especially susceptible to being misled by someone liked.
  16. incentive caused bias. His professional reputation is all tied up with what he knows.
  17. Bias from the non-mathematical nature of the human brain in its natural state as it deals with probabilities employing crude heuristics and is often mislead by mere contrast
  18. Or if something is very vivid, which I’m going to come to next, that will really pound in.
  19. Now we come bias from over-influence by extra vivid evidence
  20. Stress-induced mental changes, small and large, temporary and permanent
  21. the tendency to lose ability through disuse. Then I’ve got mental and organizational confusion from the say-something syndrome


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Immediate basics

  • Figure out who’s doing good work today. (UW virology lab; Stanford testing facility; etc.) Call them; learn what they need; solve those problems. (E.g. shortage of reagents.)
  • Push very hard on social distancing now. Close all non-essential commercial establishments for some period of time.

Taiwan has millions of visitors from China and only 45 coronavirus cases. Here’s how.

Coronavirus: The Black Swan of 2020

  1. Cash runway. Do you really have as much runway as you think? Could you withstand a few poor quarters if the economy sputters? Have you made contingency plans? Where could you trim expenses without fundamentally hurting the business? Ask these questions now to avoid potentially painful future consequences.
  2. Fundraising. Private financings could soften significantly, as happened in 2001 and 2009. What would you do if fundraising on attractive terms proves difficult in 2020 and 2021? Could you turn a challenging situation into an opportunity to set yourself up for enduring success? Many of the most iconic companies were forged and shaped during difficult times. We partnered with Cisco shortly after Black Monday in 1987. Google and PayPal soldiered through the aftermath of the dot-com bust. More recently, Airbnb, Square, and Stripe were founded in the midst of the Global Financial Crisis. Constraints focus the mind and provide fertile ground for creativity.
  3. Sales forecasts. Even if you don’t see any direct or immediate exposure for your company, anticipate that your customers may revise their spending habits. Deals that seemed certain may not close. The key is to not be caught flat-footed.
  4. Marketing. With softening sales, you might find that your customer lifetime values have declined, in turn suggesting the need to rein in customer acquisition spending to maintain consistent returns on marketing spending. With greater economic and fundraising uncertainty, you might even want to consider raising the bar on ROI for marketing spend.
  5. Headcount. Given all of the above stress points on your finances, this might be a time to evaluate critically whether you can do more with less and raise productivity.
  6. Capital spending. Until you have charted a course to financial independence, examine whether your capital spending plans are sensible in a more uncertain environment. Perhaps there is no reason to change plans and, for all you know, changing circumstances may even present opportunities to accelerate. But these are decisions that should be deliberate.


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