No payoff = bad bet?

This is an obvious logical fallacy, yet the argument is surprisingly common from some who think of themselves as skeptics. They are, in fact, “pseudoskeptics,” because they are selectively skeptical, rejecting the ideas of others while swallowing their own whole.

We never have complete control over the circumstances of life. What works one time may not work another. Walking down the street can be a gamble; after all, we could get hit by a bus. Yet if we live as if we must avoid all danger, we die in a state of constriction and loss.

Ideally, we learn to assess risk and to make choices that recognize risk and consider possible returns. If the return is high, we may take higher risks. That’s all rational game theory.

So if I get hit by a bus, does that mean it was a mistake to walk down the street? Perhaps it was a mistake to be inadequately careful, but no amount of care can avoid all risk. The risk is small, so normal response to it is reasonable caution.

On LENR Forum, kg031590 wrote:, 0n the topic of Industrial Heat investment in Rossi:

high risk. High payoff.

The risk was known to be high, both generically and specific. The payoff, then, was not a certain thing at all, but rather an assessment of potential, of possibility.

Mary Yugo snarled:

So far, **unnecessarily** high risk and, far as we know, absolutely ZERO payoff. TIFIFY

I had to look up the acroynm. “There, I Fixed It for You.” Meaningless here.

The necessity of some behavior depends on context, and is generally a personal decision. IH had decided to investigate LENR, independently, this wasn’t about Rossi. However, Rossi’s claims were having a negative effect on investment in other LENR research. All the facts and claims about Rossi that MY repeats so often were common knowledge among CMNS researchers in 2011.

There was enough opinion that Rossi might have something that investment in other approaches, not making such strong claims, was being impacted. There were genuine scientists who were impressed by demonstrations.

I argued, in 2011, that any demonstration could be faked, as a general principle, any expert, even, could be fooled, if the “artist” had full control of the context, and this is why fully independent testing is considered necessary for confirmation of unexpected results. My position was not that Rossi was a fraud, but that we could not be sure — and also that scientists should avoid confirming what depended so heavily on managed demonstrations. The history of Kullander and Essen was tragic.

Further, a plausible explanation existed for Rossi’s paranoid behavior. It was not proof that he had nothing. My conclusion from review of the evidence, early on in the case, was that IH decided to put clothes pins on their noses and proceed with Rossi. Sometimes it’s thought that they invested $10 million, or $11.5 million. In fact, it was more like $20 million or so, it appears. (But I have not reviewed the relevant case files, there might be more data there). Darden said that if there was even a 1% chance of success, the Rossi investment was worth the risk.

That would be for two reasons: the first would be that the reward, if the technology actually worked with reasonable reliability, was in the billions, maybe on a trillion-dollar level. For a game-theoretical analysis, 1% of a trillion dollars is $10 billion. A rip-roaring bargain at $20 million.

If one has the resources to make bets like this, and if the assessment of odds is sound, one could make money hand over fist. One might need, however, maybe $20 billion or so to invest. (I’m not doing the math right now, this is just a rough idea).

Very clear is that IH could afford to lose that $20 million. That money came from Darden personally, with other associated investors.

MY claims they had “ZERO payoff.” That’s face-palm ignorant. Cash-flow, the $20 million became a new $50 million for the dedicated purpose, with more investment possible. But even more, they learned a lot, they developed resources, and they turned the lights on in a dark place, so the world could see what was going on behind the scenes with Rossi, not just the easy surface appearances. This is not “ZERO.” It is valuable.

As with any activity, it can be expected that they will learn with experience. Those odds should go up.

LENR is real, I have no reasonable doubt about that, based on study of the extant evidence, and work is under way to nail that even more strongly. It is by no means clear, however, that commercial applications are possible. That’s risky.

However, this is a sure thing: if the necessary research is not done, commercial applications will not be possible. Nothing risked, nothing gained. So then it’s all an issue of balance.

I’ve recommended that IH proceed very carefully now. It appears that they are doing this. They appear to be genuinely interested in supporting the field, not attempting to dominate it, but merely picking and choosing what they will support, and they have claimed that if direct investment in some activity is not appropriate, they would help find charitable (or governmental) support for it.

In many ways, the lawsuit showed that they keep their word, within reason, and sometimes even beyond that. I’m impressed.

Author: Abd ulRahman Lomax


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