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Sometimes, in conversations with others, I hear them say with complete confidence stuff that I know is total crap. It's like I just can't get over how absolutely wrong they are and yet how absolutely right they believe they are.

So I start wondering how many times I do exactly the same thing. I mean, how can I know what I don't know? How much is there? How do I even know if something I really believe is true or not?

It's hard to think that everything I believe about the world might be completely untrue. In illusion. An ... imagination.

Sometimes I am faced with a situation where if I convince the other person of what I believe, then I also believe that person will be better off. For example, if a car is coming and a child is entering a road, Instinctively, we think to call out to the child or try to stop the child or yell at the car to stop the car, but what if the underlying belief: That the child is better off not being hit. Is false?

What if the child may be better off for being hit. Perhaps it makes the child stronger later in life or through her recovery, she meets the man of her dreams and they live happily ever after?

We don't know. I don't know. How can I know what to do?

I haven't read the article, yet, but in response to your comment, I am reminded of how, often, people are encouraged to be and rewarded for being "certain". AKA "assertive".

Frequently, when I qualify the knowledge I'm sharing with comments about my level of certainty in it and/or its sources, I'm criticized for being some combination of "too verbose", "uncertain", "confusing" (even though, when people actually pay attention to me, they usually say afterward that they have a much better understanding than they did before), etc.

The world is complex, sometimes. But there's a lot of pressure to ignore that complexity.

And then people wonder why things go to hell in a hand basket. And EVEN THEN, all too often they don't really want to know. They just want to know who to blame, and what pre-packaged "solution" to implement.

the pressure is not to ignore but to reduce that complexity. People who ask you questions expect that from you, the provider of information. They expect you to reduce that complexity, and if you are not doing your job, meaning you give them too much information, they will be unhappy. Its not that they don't want to know, but why do they need you if you cannot reduce the complexity for them, i guess this is what most people are getting paid for - for reducing complexity for other people. Someone who have read C. Shannon may add something about entropy etc, but i know i don't know information theory, even though i suspect it is relevant to what i just said

There are times when someone else is making e.g. the design decisions, the schedule decisions, etc. Let's take schedule: They want to know when I'll be done with something. But I have 5, 8, however many dependencies, half of whom are not responding to my queries for information and several of whom are outside of my team and immediate reporting structure.

What do I need? Responses so that I can determine my own schedule. What do I get? "Just tell me when you'll be done."

Well, Mr/Ms project manager, what do you really need to be doing? Getting answers from the dependencies who are refusing to answer me. But that's difficult and frustrating and time consuming. So you just lean on me, because I'm on your team and at hand.

More frustrating than schedules are specifications. I'll do some QA work. In order to have some idea of the effort, I need to know the specifications. But those are still in (major) flux (despite being 2/3 of the way through the budgeted schedule). I attempt to explain this. I start describing detail because the person I'm talking to has no idea of the scope of impact this lack of definition creates, or perhaps even that there is still a lack of definition and what that is. But they just want a date, and/or a number of hours.

I'm delving into detail because they haven't done their job. But they don't want to understand the impact of their lapse. They just want "the solution".

Not that I don't make mistakes, myself, and sometimes fail to deliver. But I try not to blow people off because they are finding what they are tackling to be complex.

I guess my comment has ended up being very work focused. Similar things happen in personal life. I started to describe an example, but I think I've written enough.

I've had clients ask me a question and say, "I don't want to know how, just if it is possible?" and I suppose because I think they think it is really hard, I just tell them how to do it, it's like 2 clicks.

But then half an hour later they ask me the same question the same way and so I just say, 'Yes.' and start answering like that, yes, no, yes, no, yes, yes... and they tend to like that better.

Right or wrong, NOT acting is often a far worse sin. Do you live your life in hesitation, questioning your every move? The silver lining is that everyone is as equally wrong as you. The world rewards those who cause motion, who act. Energy excites.

It is also interesting to consider that you might be wrong about how wrong somebody is. What if you are both right, that you have not considered their issue in a context they perceive?

We perfectionists strive to be right and worry too much about being wrong. How complicated we make our lives.

> The world rewards those who cause motion, who act.

I hate to bring Godwin into this, but Hitler acted/caused motion, so did Stalin, so do a lot of bad people. Did the world really reward them?

They left enough of a mark with their motion that you readily brought up names and thought of actions. Fame is enough reward for some people, as is power and money. I did not exclude the possibility of punishments.

The point is that, right or wrong, they made decisions. They lived. How many of us can say that we took a chance and really felt alive with that big decision? Maybe it is about starting a war with your neighboring country; maybe it is as thrilling as asking your sweetheart to marry you. The act of making the decision breathes life into you. And sure, maybe it is the wrong thing to do, but how do you measure that in good time before making your decision?

The act of making the decision is what separates leaders and followers.

Um. This post is more than a little scary. The philosophy of "act, don't think" is equally as dangerous as "think, but don't act."

Edit: A better way to put it. "Think, but don't act" can only destroy your life. "Act, but don't think" can destroy everyone's.

Um... no, being right actually matters. Leaders that say, get half their men killed in a phyrric march to Russia failed, no matter how they are remembered. They did wrong. It isn't enough. Being the Best or Nothing is an attitude that will end in tears. It's only to be the best-- the most considered and thought out-- that one can be. Anyone can hare off into idiocy... that doesn't take bravery, or gumption, or if it does, it takes tools that could be used well and uses them for ill. All it takes is not knowing enough to be concerned, and thus not knowing enough to make informed decisions about what one's going into.

Action is like fire-- it's a means to an end, not an end in and of itself.

The act of making the decision without care of consequence is what separates psychopaths and sociopaths from people.

Have you had a noticeable fraction of their fame, wealth or power?

Does the world reward suicide? That's an act. :P

Isn't that the decision to stop acting for the rest of time?

We always operate with imperfect knowledge. So we must make decisions based on probable outcomes. Is the child more likely to be better off if not hit by the car? Since the chance of death is high, then yes.

You also have to factor out things that appear on both sides of the equation. Any of the possible positive things you have prevented that also could happen had you intervened are irrelevant to the decision.

We never have perfect knowledge, but we must act anyway. The alternative is to be frozen and do nothing, ever.

It's not a binary system. The point is that it's better to make a decision knowing that your knowledge is imperfect and allowing for that than to do so thinking that your plan is perfect and that nothing could possibly go wrong.

"So I start wondering how many times I do exactly the same thing."

Not so many times. People who fall into your description do know they are BSing, what they don't know is some people actually know they are doing so. I have seen a few of these who actually know their words are total crap, know that everyone doubts them, put keep going with a straight face. They are also the kind that usually get promotions and pay raises.

You can't argue against someone's reality. However, you can get them to believe in your reality.

For example, what is easier - convince you a) that the Martians are attacking or b) that I believe the Martians are attacking?

a) Convince the girl that she is interesting and sexy or b) convince her that you believe that she is interesting and sexy


Without getting too metaphysical here, beliefs can, if not shape, distort reality.

For example, one of the purposes of fancy, polished, sleek TV automobile ads is to reassure buyers of that particular car that they made the right purchase ("Dude, that's my car!")

Similarly, our beliefs are self-reinforcing. Like imagine you had a conflict with a co-worker because he wronged you in some way. Even if he tries to make up, you may continue to filter all his actions through the he-wronged-me or what-is-he-really-trying-to-do filter. Even if his intentions are honest and beneficial.

There is a bit of a conspiracy theorist in all of us. Either you can believe people are out to get you or take situations as they come, without judgement.

Latest research using functional MRI imaging actually points to strangers mirroring another's emotions at a very low base mental level. For example, if you believe cute women make you nervous, you will become nervous. And, as fMRI reveals they will sympathetically identify with your nervousness and feel anxiety/nervousness themselves. Which is kind of vicious circle (I'm making her nervous because I am nervous. Why did I go on this date?)

Sorry, I deleted that without knowing you were composing a reply. Metaphysical. I guess we are at that edge with metaphysics where we know there's a lot out there we don't know and we have to decide if we want to investigate it or not. I suppose it is the same scientifically as well.

We don't want to go build a collider that could create a black hole big enough to envelop the earth, but really, how big is that?

I don't believe that the purpose of advertisements is to reassure customers AFTER they've spent the money. That doesn't make sense to me. Future sale is influenced by good service over the length of ownership. I don't agree that post-sale ego-stroking is even a factor.

I do however believe and agree that beliefs are self reinforcing (see I failed again, just like I knew I would)

Well, you just convinced me you believe that, thereby demonstrating that "b" is easier than "a". Congrats!

However, you are still wrong. At one point the US National Government spent $1/4 mil per year in attempts to convince people who had bought American-made cars that they had made a good choice. (I don't know current stats, and know that I don't know them.)

Think of it this way: If you can convince people who bought your product to feel good about their decision then they will speak well of your product to others. Reputation and word of mouth are both powerful and worth investing in.

Special case there, the US Govt isn't a car manufacturer per-se. That's just the equivalent of the Buy British message from the UK government.

I don't see BMW, say, doing these kinds of ads and they seem quite popular.

b, and if they think they're not, neither. (based on personal experience) The second 'b' tends to come after some acceptance of the second 'a'.

Do me a favour, save the child if it's in your power and think about all the possible parallel universe outcomes over a nice glass of chablis later.

This happens to me quite often but if I think a bit about it, I'm not 100% sure either why they're completely wrong.

If you want to get into the conversation (not recommended as it gets ugly quite often when people are completely sure of something * caugh...republicans... caugh*) it's actually better to argue on why they're wrong to be COMPLETELY sure rather than argue the opposite point you might think is right.

They will have far less argument to explain why their point is completely right than to show that yours isn't right either.

All of the best republicans I have known are their own biggest critics. All of the best democrats I've know have been as well.

The problem is that its the most cock-sure on either side that get into the intractable arguments with each other, or worse, rush into action so sure that they are correct that they never even consider the unintended consequences.

Sadly, it also makes them much more likely to be elected.

Anyone who is capable of getting themselves made President should on no account be allowed to do the job. - Douglas Adams

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