Wednesday, April 27, 2022

Book Review: The Righteous Mind by Jonathan Haidt


The Righteous Mind is a book about morals. At first glance, morality may belong to the realm of philosophers and theologians, but not actuaries.  Indeed, it may be hard to find a discourse on the greater good in a statistics text book.  Yet, there are three reasons I think actuaries will find this book appealing:

  1. Much of what actuaries are concerned with involves predicting human behavior. Perhaps understanding someone's moral framework can yield insights about their risk taking behavior or why they'd even consider buying insurance (or cheating the insurer). 
  2. The book provides mathematical framework for morality. The author introduces the Morality Matrix, which should get the actuarial taste buds salivating. Haidt expands left/right orientations into a deeper palate of dimension. For actuaries who enjoy component based studies, this will be a welcome analysis.
  3. Actuaries are humans, too. This book offers a look in the mirror, an opportunity to "know thyself" a little bit better, and also sheds some light on your fellow human beings.
This book challenged some of the conventions I had about the role and value of reason in my decision making and justifications It gave me an opportunity to check my biases. Most importantly it gave me language/tools to understand the current political and social landscape in a way that the mainstream media misses.

Friday, April 1, 2022

Actuaryland: A Theme Park Designed By and For Actuaries

Inspired by recent activity on Twitter, a nationally recognized amusement park design firm is entering a concept phase for a new niche attraction. 

The impetus of the idea came out of an exchange on the popularity of Bayesian Statistics - to which one @loveactuary responded "in actuaryland we love em" - to which @EvanSparks chimed in "Actuaryland: the theme park where all the roller coasters have accurate forecast for how long a guest can ride before throwing up." This is now commonly referred to as the Puke Index.

And thus a concept is born.

Like all theme parks, the admission price will likely cost a small fortune. @nateworrell went as far to say that all tickets will have to be 'prefunded.' 

Even with a ticket, the entry into the park will likely require patrons to have to pass through a series of entry requirements, each one mentally and emotionally demanding. Less than half of ticketed guests are expected to actually make it into the park.

Once in the park there are several marquee attractions. Of course lines and wait times are going to be unavoidable - @Catuary1 adds a new twist with a policy not to disclose estimated wait times to park goers. Instead "they will roughly tell you how long the wait is but it is very vague...".  This should certainly ramp up the levels of anxiety and apprehension!

And as you read the descriptions, it is important to remember that in Actuaryland "all the rides are simulations" (@nateworrell):