Showing posts with label Bias. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Bias. Show all posts

Monday, July 15, 2013

Professional Bias: The most damning kind of 'Modern Prejudice'?

Thanks to Mahzarin Banaji & Anthony Greenwald, authors of the recently published book "Blindspot: Hidden Biases of Good People", I now have a term to use when I crib about that intangible, all pervasive, frustrating, subtle but highly damaging prejudice one has to face in the corporate life.

Below is my comment* posted against the transcript of a rather surprisingly** unbiased interview of Banaji by Shankar Vedantam on NPR Code-switch
*one among the 214 highly engrossing comments as on today
**or may be not-so-surprising considering the topic is of 'bias' & avoiding that makes definite sense :-) & also because Shankar himself authored a book that establishes the existence of unconscious biases (The Hidden Brain: How our Unconscious Minds Elect Presidents, Control Markets, Wage Wars and Save Our Lives)
Let me admit upfront that the comment i made about the book in the penultimate paragraph below is hardly unbiased as 1) I haven't (still) read the book & 2) I was prejudiced by the choice of examples Banaji made.

My comment:

Ouch! that hit a raw nerve…

Considering the many instances I encountered and still experiencing, it’s apparent to me that I unfortunately am on the wrong viz., receiving side of this bias - No wonder, I am not really able to smirk in tacit understanding of this form of subtle prejudice like Banaji & Greenwald can!

I probably faced this first as a kid transitioning from vernacular education to an 'English medium' school wherein I joined this phantom club of under-dog vern-pretenders. Even as I overcame this initial bias over a few precious school years, I have had an extended rendezvous with this intangible discrimination that followed me most places & most worryingly, into my career – an aspect to an extent demonstrated by the number of times I riled against ageism, rankism & even heightism on twitter in the past few years.

Hands-down, the title of the most damning kind of subtle prejudice goes to professional discrimination that manifests itself in multiple forms in multiple contexts right from Existence of highly exclusive informal academic/ alumni groups; Caste (in Indian context), region triggered favoritism to Inherent bias of domain-Gods prejudiced against wannabes that are trying to break-in into their sacred bastion – most of which I am experiencing right now with my own seemingly self-defeating penchant for periodical disruptive re-invention of self by making/ attempting a lateral career move with no pedigree, justification other than my own belief.

If it sounds like I’m demonizing these ‘quaint’ prejudices as if they were a bigger evil than the regular discrimination types like age, color, disability, gender, race, religion, sexual orientation etc., I have a reason for being so. Unlike these more visible & blatant discrimination wherein the discriminator most times cannot morally or at least legally justify the bias & hence the biased can seek refuge in the regulation & the brotherhood of communities that are similarly affected., the victim, if I may say that, of a subtle prejudice/ bias/ discrimination is without any recourse of fighting this anomaly & hence is perpetually screwed.

No one is above a little-bias in their lives - My own biases & how they impacted the under favored is something which now I’ll keep mulling on, so as to avoid. I however like to believe my fleeting prejudices never trampled on any career aspiration nor on real merit, but aware I am pretty much of any bias I have & when I do, it’s intentional. Given this, I’d argue most of these prejudices aren't unintentional but very consciously employed – while I haven’t read the book, the tone, tenor and the case-studies used by the authors make this book come across as a guide to these subtle perpetrators on “how not to feel guilty while favoring your own kind” – It’s a great service nonetheless by authors to highlight this aspect so very bravely.

The biases may be quaint, but the impact is real and it hurts real bad.

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Nobody’s saying no to India’ – phew, that’s a relief...

The survey of a few global LPs by VCCircle that was intended to understand 'what a LP wants from Indian PE managers" but actually feels like "why a global LP wouldn't want to put his best bucks in Indian PE" threw up some expected & some strange surmises, but nevertheless makes an interesting read –

The link to the article is below & below that is a repro' of my own comment on the article;

My comment:


Interesting surmises!

What makes the takeaways less validated however is the lack of disclosure or at least a categorization of the LPs surveyed**. This gap I felt more acutely for a few like the question # 9 the response pictorial of which indicates that 50% of LPs surveyed will put money in PE/ VCs that're focused on investing in growth-stage enterprises – this averaged-out response doesn't allow one to assess if this is the response of each LP sub-set falls within this range or if some LP sub-sets deviate from the mean significantly.

I also felt a lot of the questions were overtly leading & that could skew the responses in favor of the inherent bias/ prejudice in the question (for e.g. 10 & 11..)

And yeah, the sliver-lining… It warmed my cockles that LPs have acknowledged of the promise of Healthcare Industry in India & the candid confession that ‘no body’s saying no to India’ – phew, that’s a relief.

**I realize it’s possible this can be done still from the data available OR it has already been done… only I couldn’t see it in the downloaded report.  

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Dialog on Drug Baron's post "The Primacy of Statistics: In defense of the pivotal Phase 3 Clinical Trial"

The Primacy of Statistics: In defense of the pivotal Phase 3 Clinical Trial

By Drug Baron (David Grainger)

My comment on the above post;

A very compelling argument indeed - One factor though I think needs to be taken into account is the type of indication for which the drug is being pursued.
While for the more prevalent indications such as metabolic disorders, cardio-vascular diseases et al where the sample size is large statistical rigor is highly relevant & decisive while approving the drug, can it be simultaneously argued that for orphan & other highly specific indications, where the sample is small, a solely statistical model will eliminate a lot of potential treatment options to statistical bias? – particularly since its being increasingly noted that an individual’s genetic make-up (presence or absence of mutations on a specific gene et al in the healthy or diseased tissue) can determine how the patient responds to the drug under evaluation? (case-in-study, Vemurafenib working for BRAFV600-Mutation Positive Metastatic Melanoma patients)  

Drug Baron's reply t my above comment:

davidgrainger Mod  Murali Apparaju  an hour ago

Thanks for your comment. This goes right to the nub of the argument.
You are exactly right that the slavish adherence to statistics will deny people (particularly in small indications) access to medicines that do actually work. In the limit, unless you are an identical twin, you are the only person with your genotype and maybe the drug would work brilliantly for you and for no-one else. With statistics as the gatekeeper, you will never get access to that drug.
BUT the key point of the piece is to point out that without statistics there is no way to know if that drug really did work for you. There is no control. At present (and maybe always) there is no alternative to a statistical test to be sure that a drug works at all.
Unless you are happy to approve drugs that MIGHT work, then we have no choice but to accept that with a statistically significant phase 3 trial as the "gatekeeper" we will reject drugs that actually work, but which we cannot prove they work.
For me, I would rather have the current system - where drugs have to be proven to work - than the one that existed prior to regulators, when snake-oil salesmen could sell anything as long as they could assemble a compelling enough argument to persuade the purchaser. That was a bad model - but allowing drugs through that havent passed a statistical test simply because they may work in some people, and there arent enough people to do the proper test, is a big step backwards.
Yet I see that happening more and more, particularly in the orphan drugs space that you plead as a "special case" - which is precisely why I wrote this article!

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Caste, gender & slur - Quite an explosive cocktail!! :-)

01 March 2009

Wow, this repro' is a dinosaur, way back from 2009!!! - my comment below was on a real flamer of a topic that was originally posted in November 2007 & still going strong with 983 comments amounting to terabytes of sane words & insane rhetoric. I don't want to be another blogger to do the same mistake & hence have disabled comments on this - If you have a compulsive impulse to add to Uday's woes, post your comments on the original site below - cheers, V

My observations on the original post (rather on the content of Brahmin Ponnu’s statements) – to keep it simple, I will assume she’s indeed a brahmin ponnu & the feelings indeed are true…

“Familiarity breeds contempt – Over exposure to a certain kind makes one nauseated – the insider knowledge causing prejudice”
  •  Doesn’t this happen in your company, aren’t the insiders the last choice for the new post created & don’t outsiders look eminently more attractive than insiders to the management – this is a similar syndrome.

“Choice of mate instincts keeps changing with age..”
  •  At college I’m sure the lure is of big talking, macho & adventurous guys – which an average brahmin male may not demonstrate owing to upbringing.. PHYSICAL & SOCIAL QUALITIES COUNT WHEN ONE IS LOOKING FOR A PRINCE ON THE WHITE HORSE TO TAKE YOU ON A DATE – SWEEP YOU AWAY?….FOREVER?….. THINK AGAIN…
  • 5 years down the line, I’m sure ponnu would settle for a Bay area techie in favour of the college stud who may not have settled as well & earning that well – MONEY COUNTS WHEN YOU ARE LOOKING TO MARRY

“The lady’s comments are possibly reflecting the general liberation of minds in either sexes in this modern age…”
  •  Perhaps an indication of a growing & general reluctance to accept limitations in partners & aversion to compromise.
  • May be polygamy/ multiple partners is making a come-back… (check out the Axe Deo ad where mixing makes babes better….:-))
  • Perhaps, the ever increasing domination of “I” over anything else

“Brahmin men caught in a time-warp? – starting to live the stereotypes showcased by society, films??
  • Someone said this before, buck-up guys, change, work-out, change your attitude to looks, you have the basics in place, all you need to do is polish the stuff..
  • Forget about the simplicity your grandfather so believed in — he was in a different era… re-package your body, spirit, get attractive to the opposite sex…
  • I’m sure those who have done/ doing this already see the results, non-brahmin girls falling for them & yearning for them… (all the above applies still to these wide-eyed wonders, grass is greener on the other side of the fence)
  • finally it’s an appraisal, part-true, part-crap —- well…take some good out of it…. emerge better… don’t justify & get labelled more harshly…

all the best…