Jan 10, 2017

La scienza non è democratica, è la cosa più democratica che ci sia

"La scienza non è democratica" (Roberto Burioni, Medico, su Facebook) è una solenne cazzata.

O quantomeno è una frase che richiede delle precisazioni.

E' vero che non possiamo mettere sullo stesso piano tutte le affermazioni.
Questa è demagogia, è superstizione, è sfaldamento del tessuto sociale.
Ma ciò non ha a che fare con la scienza, ma con la ragione e con il buon senso.

La scienza è tale proprio perché se ne frega dell'autorevolezza e della reputazione di chi fa un'affermazione.
La scienza vuole le prove e le vuole secondo il metodo scientifico.
La scienza è la cosa più democratica che ci sia.

Chiunque può contribuire e affermare ciò che vuole, purché sia in grado di dimostrarlo. Un'affermazione vale solo se é supportata dai fatti.
Uno sconosciuto può confutare la teoria di un luminare, se può provare di avere ragione.
"Science is the belief in the ignorance of experts", diceva Richard Feymann, premio Nobel per la fisica.

Sep 19, 2016

The Moral Philosophy of Self-Driving Cars

Since self-driving cars started to become close to be available to consumers, issues about the management of accidents by the car internal computer are being debated, mostly on the ethical ground. The discussions typically take the form of thought experiments in which people are confronted with ambiguous situations that challenge their rationality and moral sentiments: e.g., if you had no choice, would you rather kill innocent guy A or innocent guy B, save a group of people or save youself etc.

Here some interesting reads and a couple of videos:

Jul 11, 2016

On Brexit and the governance of globalization

The outcome of the vote on Brexit surprised many people, myself included. Nonetheless, the fact that Brexit gained momentum should not come as a surprise. The reasons why Brexit became relevant do not necessarily have to do with populism and issues with democracy as many observers seem to imply. Populism is always a consequence of something else and the rants about "stupid" voters really miss the point. In this post I take a different perspective and ask: what if voters were actually behaving rationally?

Disclaimer: this post is long, not particularly well structured and has not been revised.

Oct 13, 2015

Data and theory: lessons from Angus Deaton

The Nobel to Deaton is a prize to applied economics, serious empirical research; something that does not make you look as a disruptive genius, but more as incremental builder of knowledge, which in the long run can slowly change things for the better. This is the core message of this prize. But this focus on empirics is not to confuse with atheoretical data mining. Data must be interpreted and often you can say one thing and its opposite by just looking at data. Data require thinking, empirical analysis requires theoretical reasoning; and the two are complementary.

In the end, there is no substitute for careful evaluation of the chain of evidence and reasoning by people who have the experience and expertise in the field. The demand that experiments be theory-driven is, of course, no guarantee of success, though the lack of it is close to a guarantee of failure.
This is the methodological message of this lecture, that technique is never a substitute for the business of doing economics.

Angus Deaton


Sep 23, 2015

Volkswagen, Free Software and Economic Incentives

The automotive industry has been in the spotlight after a massive scandal at Volkswagen, using code hidden in the engine management software to cheat emissions tests.

Volkswagen programmed its car engine computers to detect the EPA's emission tests, and run dirty the rest of the time.

In real driving, the cars exceeded emissions standards by a factor of up to 35.

It has long been known that such software is spying on the habits of the driver and this data is extracted from the car when it is serviced and uploaded to the car company.

VW being caught is the exception and this is hardly surprising; proprietary software is often malware.

In fact, experts generally agree that there is no means other than software freedom to counter the might of corporations like Volkswagen and their potential to misuse that power, as demonstrated in the emissions testing scandal.

Using free software would not have stopped Volkswagen from programming it this way, but would have made it harder to conceal.

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