12 steps

I have been annoyed by 12 step programs since high school when I first read the steps after hearing about how many people are sentenced to take them and their success rate (bad). Obvious breach of separation of church and state.

This post has two purposes. One is to make more known what the 12 steps are, since most people don’t realize how faith based, nonsensical, and redundant they are. The second is to promote skepticism, which I’m always about. The most recent Skeptics Guide to the Universe podcast contained this gem. I didn’t find it written down on the web anywhere, though, so figured I’d go to the trouble. The skeptics don’t really need 12 steps, so we use some of the extra ones to be cheeky, so it’s not all seriousness.

Original Skeptic
1. We admitted we are powerless over alcohol, that our lives had become unmanageable. 1. We admitted that our cognition, perception, and memory are flawed and pseudoscience and gullibility are rampant.
2. We came to believe that a power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity. 2. We came to accept that the process of thinking critically is more important than any belief.
3. Made a decision to turn our will and lives over to the care of God as we understood him. 3. Acknowledged the utility of methodological naturalism as a way of empirically understanding the world.
4. Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves. 4. Made a thorough study of the various mechanisms of self deception, cognitive biases, and logical fallacies.
5. Admitted to God, ourselves, and to other human beings the exact nature of our wrongs. 5. Acknowledged to ourselves, others, and on the internet, that we are skeptics.
6. We’re entirely ready to have God remove all these defects of character. 6. We vow to listen to the SGU every week without fail.
7. Humbly ask God to remove our shortcoming. 7. Listen to Geologic, too.
8. Made a list of all persons we had harmed and became willing to make amends to them all. 8. Endeavor to examine our premises and logic and correct any misinformation or misconceptions we may have spread.
9. Made direct amends to such people whenever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others. 9. Correct errors and false statements on blog posts and within forums unless doing so would make you a dickish troll.
10. Continue to take personal inventory, and when we were wrong, promptly admitted it. 10. Continue to keep all opinions and conclusions tentative and revise them in the face of new ideas or information.
11. Sought through prayer and medition to improve our concious contact with God as we understood him, praying only for knowledge of his will for us and the power to carry that out. 11. Sought through study and research to improve our critical thinking skills and keep up to date on basic scientific literacy.
12. Having had a spiritual awakening as a result of these steps we tried to carry this message to alcoholics and practice these principles in all our affairs. 12. Having become more skeptical ourselves we will engage in skeptical activism and outreach to make the world a more skeptical place.

A thing I did

There’s this internet show called Scam School. It’s a show that shows little puzzles and games you can play in bars or at parties to win drinks and amaze you’re friends/enemies. Anyway, the most recent episode features a card based guessing game w/ some (I guess) counterintuitive statistics involved. If you watch the video you won’t have to read the next paragraph where I explain the game.

It works like this. I bet you, giving you very good odds, that you can’t guess the next card in the deck wrong all the way through. So, you have to guess the card value, not suite, and be wrong 52 times consecutively. So, if you say 3 and a 3 comes up you lose. You can change your guess every card. The game usually is done so you can only see the most recently displayed card, not the whole history of cards shown. You would probably lose the bet because the odds of making it through the whole deck is much lower than people would (I guess) assume.

In the show he talks about how the stats are assuming no strategy and then he kinda asks people to figure out what could be done with a strategy. I was awake and intrigued so I made a spreadsheet with the stats with the best possible strategy. I think I got it right. Ya’ll can check my work.

The strategy is simple. Guess whatever card has shown up the most. So, for the first guess it’s random. Then guess whatever the first card shown is until some card is shown twice. Then guess that until some card is shown thrice… and so on. Once a card has been shown 4 times you win by just guessing that card. So, in the spreadsheet I calculate the odds of their being a duplicate, triplicate, or quadruplicate at each point in the deck, and I calculate the odds of guessing wrong at each point of the deck giving each possible duplication situation, and then I merge all the probabilities. That gives the odds of guessing wrong at each point in the deck. To get the cumulative odds of getting that far into the deck you just have to multiply all the odds of getting to each prior point.

I posted this to the forum and was slightly corroborated by someone, however someone else was saying they made a brute force program that was getting something like a 27% success rate, where my statistics, as you can see, predict only a 19.5% success rate. So, I whipped up my brute force simulation program. There’s a .rar containing the .exe available here. It’s not very pretty or anything, but it corroborates my statistics, so I’m feeling pretty confident at this point.

So that’s what I did recently. Take that people who think I’m wasting my life.

Actually, I have thought of one inaccuracy. Technically the stats in the spreadsheet are a bit off because it calculates the odds of you getting a duplicate, but doesn’t factor in the odds that that duplicate would cause you to lose, like in the case that the first two cards are the same. I’m not sure how big a difference that would make, but seems like the simulation should avoid that problem. Currently it looks like the error results in an approximately 3% overestimation of success.

If you actually look at any of this stuff and find an error (or know how to fix that one for the spreadsheet), or if you want my source code or anything for the simulator, please let me know.

Update: Well, my updated simulator (link auto updates to the newest version) and now it the success rate seems to hover around 27% which doesn’t seem to match the statistics. I dunno what gives.

Couple things

Recently Skeptoid had a special 250th episode and created this work of art. I originally just heard it but the video doesn’t hurt anything. I can tell you it’s also good at 1.7x speed. Skeptoid is amazing in general, but if you’re not going to listen to all of the podcast you should at least listen to this little song they made.

Also, The Amateur Scientist podcast brought this piece of internet to light. If you’d like to hear a theatrical reading it’s in this episode, or you can just read it here.