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malthrin comments on The Optimizer's Curse and How to Beat It - Less Wrong

44 Post author: lukeprog 16 September 2011 02:46AM

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Comment author: malthrin 16 September 2011 07:58:18PM *  5 points [-]

Interesting sourcing on that quote. I'm not sure what you meant to say with it, so I'll elaborate.

In fantasy sports, you begin by calculating an expected value for each player over the upcoming season. These values are used to construct your team in a draft, which is either turn-based (A picks a player, then B, then C) or auction-based (A, B, and C bid on players from a fixed initial pool of money). As the season goes on, you update your expected values with evidence from the past week's games in order to decide which players will be active and accrue points for your fantasy team.

The analogy should be obvious for most folks here. You're combining evidence to form a probability (how good was he last season? Is the new coach's game plan going to help or hurt his stats? Is he a particularly high injury risk?) and multiplying by utility to form a preference ranking. In an auction draft, the pricing mechanism even requires you to explicitly compute the expected utility values. When games are played, you update on evidence and revise your rankings.

Most people have a hard time relating to decision theory because it doesn't "feel like" what goes on in their head when they make decisions. Fantasy sports is a useful example because it makes the process explicit. I didn't fully realize how good a fit it is before this conversation - maybe I should write up an introductory rationality piece on this foundation.

Comment author: lessdazed 16 September 2011 08:51:55PM *  3 points [-]

The quote is from Orwell's 1984. The proles are generally ignorant, but good at tracking lottery numbers because it is a game. That's right, I just generalized from fictional evidence!

I figured if people are going to complain about the Burns quote, I'd give them something to really complain about. Wrong book with a date as a title, wrong author of an Odyssey, wrong language.

Fantasy sports is a great example of where this would be useful, and I can't think of a better analogy.