How to write a paper

With the help of a colleague, I recently wrote a white paper about forecasting research and how we want to use it to improve decision-making in organizations. Since people liked the paper and I enjoyed writing it, I thought I’d share some details about our writing process.

Why have a process?

Why should you even use a writing process? Shouldn’t writing be pure creativity, pulled by the force of inspiration? That would be ideal. But in real life, it rarely works. Creation is 5 percent creativity and inspiration. The remaining 95 percent is hard work and discipline. Working hard without some kind of process is time-consuming flat-out painful.

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Aumann’s agreement theorem

Aumann’s agreement theorem, roughly speaking, says that two agents acting rationally (in a certain precise sense) and with common knowledge of each other’s beliefs cannot agree to disagree.

LessWrong Wiki

In other words, when two truth-seeking individuals share information, they approach the same beliefs.

Sometimes, when I’m in a discussion with others, I remember Aumann's agreement theorem. To me, it’s an ideal: Whenever we discuss facts about the world, we should approach agreement. Otherwise, we're failing. This ideal assumes that we are:

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The rise of the car-free city

… the rise of the electric scooter is part of a broader and welcome phenomenon: the gradual retreat of the car from the European city. Across the continent, apps and satellite-tracking have spawned bike- and scooter-rental schemes that allow city-dwellers to beat the traffic. Networks of cycle paths are growing and creeping outwards; that of Paris will by next year have grown by 50% in five years. Municipal governments are lowering speed limits, introducing car bans and car-free days, pedestrianising streets and replacing car parks with bike parks.

The Economist's Charlemagne

This is fantastic. A recent trip to the US—where cars reign supreme—only strengthened my conviction that cities are a lot better without cars.

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Free Solo: Ambition and conflicts of interest

Free Solo is a 2018 National Geographic documentary by Elizabeth Chai Vasarhelyi and Jimmy Chin. It’s a behind-the-scenes look at Alex Honnold’s attempt at climbing El Capitan without a rope. The movie is full of interesting insights and observations about excellence, performance, honesty and the tension between masculine and feminine ambitions.

Spoiler alert: If you haven’t already watched the movie, I highly recommend you do before reading more or even watching the trailer. (If you’re in Norway, you can watch it for free at the Norwegian Broadcasting Corporation’s website until December 14, 2019.) If you’re not yet convinced, let’s see if the trailer moves your needle:

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The Monty Hall Problem

The Encyclopedia of Mathematics:

Imagine you are a guest in a TV game show. The host, a certain Mr. Monty Hall, shows you three large doors and tells you that behind one of the doors there is a car while behind the other two there are goats. You want to win the car. He asks you to choose a door. After you have made your choice, he opens another door, revealing a goat. He then asks you whether you want to stay with your initial choice, or switch to the remaining closed door. Would you switch or stay?

This is a fascinating paradox. For a good explanation of the solution, see montyhallproblem.com.