On Being Wrong

The blog The Wrong Stuff has some excellent interviews about how people deal with errors or mistakes. It reminded me of a book I wanted to read, but I never got past the book review. Basically, most experts are no better at predicting the future than a drunken monkey. This quote reminds me of why I hate talking to smart people:

“Most people tend to dismiss new information that doesn’t fit with what they already believe. Tetlock found that his experts used a double standard: they were much tougher in assessing the validity of information that undercut their theory than they were in crediting information that supported it.”

Smart people are better at rationalizing and defending their opinions no matter how inane. That doesn’t mean they aren’t useful. Smart people excel at analyzing subjects for which they have no personal interest, i.e. the price of wheat futures. If they could learn to apply that same Vulcan logic to the things they care about, they would realize that most of what they believe rests on a very shaky foundation. Then they might be more open to information that changes their mind. Or they might, like me, wallow in a tar pit of indecisiveness.

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