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A talk inspired by Italo Calvino's Six Memos for the Next Millennium given in Bologna in honour of Alessandro Liberati.

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  1. 1. Multiplicity Richard Smith Friend of Alessandro Italianophile Former editor, BMJ
  2. 2. Multiplicity: Alessandro
  3. 3. Cochrane Colloquium, Rome, 1999
  4. 4. Czeslaw Milosz, John Donne, W H Auden, Robert Frost
  5. 5. Marina Basmanova
  6. 6. • Your voice, your body, your name mean nothing to me now. No one destroyed them. Its just that, in order to forget one life, a person needs to live at least one other life. And I have served that portion.
  7. 7. Brodsky• Are you an American or a Russian?• I am Jewish – a Russian poet and an English essayist
  8. 8. A great tool for those who lovemultiplicity created by multiplicity
  9. 9. A great tool for those who lovemultiplicity created by multiplicity
  10. 10. Pietro Aretino• “Journalist cum press baron, master of aphorism and hyperbole; pornographer, flatterer and blackmailer; playwright, satirist, versifier, bisexual libertine, connoisseur of art; self-styled political seer, fifth evangelist, censor of the world, as well as its secretary (meaning depository of its secrets); one whose letters are answered even by emperors and kings.”• Who can match that today?
  11. 11. Francis Galton• Francis Galton (16 February 1822 – 17 January 1911), cousin of Charles Darwin, was an English Victorian polymath, anthropologist, eugenicist, tropical explorer, geographer, inventor, meteorologist, proto-geneticist, psychometrician, and statistician.
  12. 12. Francis Galton• In 1906 Galton visited a livestock fair and stumbled upon an contest.• An ox was on display, and the villagers were invited to guess the animals weight after it was slaughtered and dressed.
  13. 13. Francis Galton• Galton disliked the idea of democracy and wanted to use the competition to show the problems of allowing large groups of people to vote on a topic.
  14. 14. Francis Galton• 787 people guessed the weight of the ox, some were experts, farmers and butchers, others knew little about livestock. Some guessed very high, others very low, many guessed fairly sensibly.• Galton collected the guesses after the competition was over
  15. 15. Francis Galton• The average guess was 1,197 pounds• The correct weight was 1,198 pounds
  16. 16. Wisdom of Crowds• What Dalton discovered was that in actuality crowds of people can make surprisingly good decisions IN THE AGGREGATE, even if they have imperfect information.
  17. 17. A crucial lesson for me
  18. 18. And so to the start of my talk
  19. 19. Another of the fruits of multiplicity(Un altro dei frutti della molteplicità)
  20. 20. Italo Calvino: the theme of my lecture• “The contemporary novel is an encyclopaedia, a method of knowledge, and above all a connection between the events, the people, and the things of the world.”
  21. 21. Carlo Emilio Gadda
  22. 22. • “Unforeseen catastrophes are never the consequence ..... of a cause singular; but they are rather like a whirlpool ... towards which a whole multitude of converging causes have contributed.”• “Replace cause with causes.”
  23. 23. .
  24. 24. "To know is to insert something into what is real, and hence to distort reality""To know is to insert something into what is real, and hence to distort reality"
  25. 25. Two polarities• Exactitude: mathematics, pure spirit, the military mentality• Soul: irrationality, humanity, chaos
  26. 26. System one
  27. 27. System 2• 27 x 93
  28. 28. Ten defects in our thinking• 1. Availability bias: giving to much weight to information most available• 2. Hindsight bias• 3. The problem of induction: building general rules with too little information• 4. The fallacy of conjunction: overstimating that 7 events with 90% probability will all occur and underestimating that one will occur• 5. Confirmation bias: seeing confirming but not falsifying evidence
  29. 29. Ten defects in our thinking• 6. Contamination effects: irrelevant but proximate information overinfluences us• 7. Affect heuristic: preconceived value judgements interfere with cost benefit analyses• 8. Scope neglect: prevents us proportionately adjusting what we would be willing to sacrifice to avoid harms of different order of magnitude• 9. Overconfidence in calibration• 10. Bystander apathy
  30. 30. Italo Calvino• “Over ambitious projects may be objectionable in many fields but not in literature. Literature remains alive only if we set ourselves goals far beyond all hope of achievement.”• Cochrane?
  31. 31. Comorbidity: US data 65
  32. 32. Multimorbidity in Scotland
  33. 33. Conclusions
  34. 34. There is power in the many
  35. 35. Everything is connected to everything
  36. 36. Last thoughts
  37. 37. An opposite view• NietzscheQuotes @• When a hundred men stand together, each of them loses his mind and gets another one