What is reputation?

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I’ll give you five stars, for a price…


Here is a man who knows something about reputation:

“Now for you, my reputation is not from gossip… my reputation is fact. Is solid.”


Everybody has the best doctor, which is clearly paradoxical because we can’t all have the best doctor. The way in which we select doctors is very mysterious, because you don’t have explicit ratings of doctors. You have websites now that rate the doctors, but health is a very sensitive issue, and you give trust to someone for many, many different reasons. But in the end, everybody ends up being convinced they have the best doctor.

I try to understand why. What are the good things? What are the heuristics? What are the biases that make us react in this way? When you are in a weak position, you attribute a higher weight to authority, which should be the opposite. If you’re in a weak position, like it’s your health, you should be more careful.

(emphasis mine)

Therein lies your answer: insecurity. No one will admit how helpless and weak they are in the face of the medical establishment, and no-one is more helpless than Americans. To admit that you may not have the best doctor is to admit that you don’t have the power to secure the services of the best doctor, and that is something no-one will admit to.

See also, salary negotiation, and the lack thereof outside of unionized jobs.

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Ha ha, United States. You’re doing it wrong. Hippocratic Oaf!!

It’s what you make of it. I think that belief in and reliance upon reputation is yet another symptom of the people’s compulsion to avoid real evidence in daily life. Why trust “professionals” when you have no metrics for them? And why trust other people’s metrics? It’s more a social web/dance of ritual than anything which can be properly accounted for. And, apparently, most people accept that!

Of course we can, Doctors aren’t scalar quantities. There’s no single ordering relationship. We may model them as tuples, with many components, some of them scalar (e.g. their height - which is an irrelevant measure for a doctor, but that’s beside the point …). If each of us is permitted to choose the measure then I can certainly claim my doctor is the best.

Context is everything.

On a side note, I notice that ratings on hard drives for example fall into 2 camps. Those who installed it and loved it and those who failed to install it and hated. I assume a person would fall into the same situation, ie if I got out of them what I wanted then good, if not then bad.

Stars? Screw that. For the same money, I’ll give you five of these:


I’ve been thinking about this for a day and it’s baffling. If I don’t have a home, should I be more careful about where i choose to live? If I don’t have a job, should I be more careful about where I choose to work? If I don’t have food should I be more careful what I choose to eat?

Of course people in weak positions show more deference to people in powerful positions. We can argue about whether we ought to feel weak in these positions, but anyone who perceives themselves as weak is going to be deferential to people who they see as strong. That’s what weakness is.


It sounds like people are often too eager to compare themselves to others. I see strength/weakness as a matter of optimisation, rather than a contest.

Even from that perspective, deference towards strength is what allows the optimization (although, with a kind of different meaning of deference and of strength).

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