“There’s nobody more pro-Israel than I am.”
— Donald J. Trump, reportedly/probably
I’m on Facebook so that I can access the words of politicians filtered through news sources and blogs filtered through the internet friends I haven’t had actual contact with in at least 10 years — but occasionally Facebook proves worthwhile.
Also, ‘Sheriff’ Bill Monighetti last year published a great piece on what Facebook has taught him about daily fantasy sports. It’s a great piece. Well, I don’t actually remember if it’s great, but it’s probably pretty good because Bill’s great. There’s nobody more pro-Bill than I am.
Anyway, this weekend when I wasn’t sweating NASCAR . . .
— Matthew Freedman (@MattFtheOracle) February 27, 2017
. . . I scrolled through my Facebook news feed, mostly to read Oscars #hottaeks.
Facebook Is Where Thoughts Take Long Naps
Between posts about Halle Berry’s hair and dress and Bill Paxton’s forgotten genius was a post by a woman I used to know in college.
By the way, this was before the Best Picture snafu. After that, everything in my news feed was basically La La Land vs. Midnight, as if everyone I’ve ever electronically befriended majored in creative writing and minored in film studies.
Back to the post by this woman I knew in college: I wasn’t great friends with her back in the day. She was friends with one of my girlfriends (the one who didn’t like Annie Hall), and I’m pretty sure the friend — we’ll call her ‘Leslie’ — wasn’t a fan of mine after the breakup. She apparently didn’t like my taste in movies.
In a world without Facebook, she’d be someone I would’ve forgotten about five to seven years ago. In all fairness, I can’t remember the names and faces of my next-door neighbors, so my non-memory of Leslie wouldn’t have been a huge slight. It would’ve just been a sign that I’m a sociopath.
By the way, “huge slight” is a weird phrase, right?
Back to the post: Leslie and her husband had recently vacationed in Israel, and she wanted to assure her friends that . . .
Israel is safe. The whole time we were there, people on Facebook worried for our safety. Don’t believe everything that you see in the media. People think that Israel is a dangerous place to go. Trust me, it isn’t!
Like most people who majored in creative writing and minored in film studies with an emphasis in Hebraic culture, I have an opinion on this topic.
But this piece is not actually about whether voluntarily traveling to Israel for pleasure is safe or smart. It’s about the way we evaluate risk and use our personal experiences to inform decisions we make.
Risk Is About More Than Just Odds
I’ve written before about risk and uncertainty, but I have more thoughts on the topic. Too many people think of risk is only a probabilistic matter. While the odds of an event happening (or not happening) are important in determining risk, what’s probably more important are the consequences of the event’s occurrence (or nonoccurrence).
In the first chapter of The Signal and the Noise, Nate Silver discusses the concept:
Risk, as first articulated by the economist Frank H. Knight in 1921, is something that you can put a price on. Say that you’ll win a poker hand unless your opponent draws to an inside straight: the chances of that happening are exactly 1 chance in 11. This is risk. . . . In the long run, you’ll make a profit from your opponents making desperate draws with insufficient odds.
Silver’s explanation focuses primarily on odds, but he makes clear that risk is about overall value since risk “is something that you can put a price on.” Risk is something that should be thought about “in the long run.”
Here’s a thought experiment: Let’s say there are 101 random people in a room. A lottery is held: 100 people will each receive $5,000 — and one person will lose $500,000. If you were one of those 101 random people, what would you think about your 0.99 percent chance of losing a sh*tload of money? How would you weigh that against your 99 percent chance of winning a moderate amount of money?
In life — and sometimes even in games — winning and losing aren’t binary events. Sometimes (read: often) the depths of losing can be more extreme than the heights of winning.
Risk isn’t just about the odds of not dying. Risk is about the fact that, if you’re wrong — if you lose — you die. In general, I prefer to play games in which death is not an outcome. That’s why, as a child, I never played with Cersei Lannister.
I don’t ride roller coasters because I don’t believe in paying to endure an experience that slightly bur certainly increases my odds of dying needlessly. But that’s just me.
Your Personal Experience Means Almost Nothing
Leslie thinks that Israel is safe because she visited there for a week and survived. She didn’t see anyone die there. She didn’t witness a terrorist attack of any kind. On the basis of her experience, Israel is safe.
Of course, a year ago on Facebook I saw a post in which another friend of mine from college mentioned that her childhood best friend — a former Marine — had recently died in a terrorist attack as a tourist in Israel. (What are the f*cking odds that an American survives the Middle East as a soldier and then dies there as a tourist?)
Anyway, on the basis of the former Marine’s personal experience, even though it was probably pleasant till the moment he died, Israel doesn’t seem safe . . . which, you know, is probably not a surprise.
So what are we to make of personal experience? Probably nothing. We have personal experiences, as do people we know. The problem is that personal experiences are isolated. It’s easy to allow the contexts of personal experiences to blind us to the larger realities.
The Inside Straight
Let’s say that it’s your first time to play poker. You chase an inside straight, and you luckily win. As a result, your personal experience tells you that chasing an inside straight is a rewarding move. Guess what? You’re probably going to be a losing poker player for the rest of your short life.
Why? Because what matters isn’t your personal experience. Your personal experience is bullsh*t. It’s a small sample that might be unrepresentative and is probably hard to evaluate without bias. What matters are facts and data.
Your personal experience is relevant to the extent that 1) it’s a data point and 2) data is important . . . but your personal experience is irrelevant to the extent that it’s just one data point (or a small collection of data points) in a mass of aggregated information.
Personal experience is almost always irrelevant because either it’s just another data point that aligns with the established averages or it’s a Black Swan — an outlier — that isn’t representative of anything anyway in either the odds or the stakes.
Only fools are bound by the scope of what they personally experience. I don’t need to be a producer of La La Land or Midnight to know that what happened at the Oscars was f*cked up.
Blah, Blah, Blah, DFS
Whether you — or anyone — wins or loses any given contest is relatively irrelevant. Whether you roster a player when he has a big performance is irrelevant. What matters is what happens in the aggregate over a longer period of time.
For instance, you would be a donkey to play James Harden (scouting report) in every slate just because he once had a big performance while you rostered him. Similarly, you’d be a jack*ss to max-enter as many guaranteed prize pools as possible simply because you won a small GPP in the first DFS slate you ever played.
This daily game of ours is amazing — but its daily nature puts us at risk of forgetting that performance is a long-term metric. If we rely on the personal experience of one event, contest, or slate, we lose perspective. We substitute narrative for facts.
Whether Israel is safe has nothing to do with what happens to people I know who travel there or what happens to people they know who travel there. Israel’s safety can be determined only by considering the quantifiable experiences of everyone who lives and travels there and the occurrences of particular events and then comparing that information to the data we have for all other places in the world. If we want to know whether traveling to Israel is safe, we need to address that question with a long-term and encompassing perspective.
And, really, that’s the way any question should be addressed.
“Am I good at DFS?”: That’s the $500,000 question.
To find an answer, I (like CSURAM88) should regularly do lineup reviews to ensure my short-term decisions are profitable over the long term. I should consult our DFS Ownership Dashboard to see if I’m consistently on the sharp plays. I should experiment with different Player Models to verify that my inclinations are actually productive. I should construct thousands of rosters with the Lineup Builder to test my ability to shotgun DFS lineups. I should research with our Trends tool to know that what I think is true is also valuable. I should immerse myself in the FantasyLabs Tools as if they were velvet tracksuits.
Basically, I — and by “I” I mean “everyone” — should have a fact-focused data-driven approach to everything. Otherwise, you might as well travel to Israel assuming it’s the safest place in the world.
And by “you” I mean “Leslie.”
The Labyrinthian: 2017.18, 113
This is the 113th installment of The Labyrinthian, a series dedicated to exploring random fields of knowledge in order to give you unordinary theoretical, philosophical, strategic, and/or often rambling guidance on daily fantasy sports. Consult the introductory piece to the series for further explanation. Previous installments of The Labyrinthian can be accessed via my author page.