Trusting Our Leaders



We will explore how to evaluate the validity of experts' statements and introduce some tools to avoid mistaken beliefs based on innate human biases.


Technology changes faster than almost any field of human endeavors,
and to successfully ride this bucking, twisting roller-coaster, we
need to make predictions. Individually, we are rarely qualified to
make those predictions, and you rightly take with a grain of salt
anytime someone tells you what the “next big thing” is going to be.
Yet, there exist among us supposed super-pundits, whose utterances
we should devour as if they were chocolate-coated truth. How much
salt do we need, then, as we read techblogs, converse at user groups,
or attend conferences?

Or perhaps it isn’t salt we need at all, but rather clear numerical
boundaries based on the failures and successes we have experienced.
The relatively young field of heuristics and biases may offer us
useful tools with which we can understand the pundits’ failings, and
our own. In this talk we’ll cover a handful of the biases most likely
to lead you into mistaken beliefs, some tools you can use to start
avoiding them, and then we’ll talk about prediction markets and
prediction tracking, two tools that can give you better evidence with
which to make more rational, and more successful, choices.

Speaking experience


  • Biography

    After 4 years spent herding volunteers as Free Geek’s head programmer, builder and sysadmin (from PHP to RoR, Woody to Ubuntu, shelves of Pentium2 servers to racks of virtualization), Martin was replaced by a 15 year old who could do all the same work better and cheaper. Accepting the change as inevitable, Martin then took a year off paid work to make sure everything was where it was supposed to be (and it was right there, just like I had hoped). Now he seeks to apply advanced rationality practices to human behavior, government, curry sauce, table tennis – whatever doesn’t run away screaming, really.

  • Biography

    Jeff Schwaber has been bringing outside ideas into surprised organizations since he moved to Portland in 2003. He was involved in a project by Freegeek to bring open source to nonprofits, and has been continuing that work since, often trying to sneak consensus, listening, and good facilitation in at the same time. He lives in Portland with housemates, a dog, two cats, and about a zillion fermenting bacteria.