Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Best Post of the Week: Double Definitions

Noah Smith's post on "What Is Derp?" is genius for two reasons: it explains what derp is (thanks, South Park) and it explains Bayesian probability.  So, it gets at a key, relatively new and popular pop culture term, and it helps clarify a key concept that has become ever more important in the social sciences.  Go read the piece. 
But here's the thing: When those people keep broadcasting their priors [pre-existing beliefs] to the world again and again after every new piece of evidence comes out, it gets very annoying. After every article comes out about a new solar technology breakthrough, or a new cost drop, they'll just repeat "Solar will never be cost-competitive." That is unhelpful and uninformative, since they're just restating their priors over and over. Thus, it is annoying. Guys, we know what you think already.

English has no word for "the constant, repetitive reiteration of strong priors". Yet it is a well-known phenomenon in the world of punditry, debate, and public affairs. On Twitter, we call it "derp".

So, what is your favorite example of derp lately?

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