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We Are All Confident Idiots (2014) (psmag.com)
203 points by who-knows 15 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 130 comments



Hey, I built a 40 year career on 'fake it until you have to leave or learn how to make it' -So don't knock this. And, all you young whippersnappers remember that its only old fools like me messing up in the code which gives you meaningful jobs fixing bugs in the future.


>Hey, I built a 40 year career on 'fake it until you have to leave or learn how to make it' -So don't knock this

This comments illustrates the article, which has nothing to do with "fake it till you make it", and is all about how people often think they know something, when, in fact, they have little knowledge on the subject (in this case, the subject being the article in question).

To clarify: "fake it till you make it" is pretending you know something when you know you don't, the exact opposite of what the article is about (not knowing that you really don't know something, and being confident that you do).

Not to knock the OP (hey, we all go straight into the comments from time to time) :)


I don't think 'fake it till you make it' is as simple as that. The whole thing about imposter syndrome is that plenty of fully competent people 'know' they are incompetent (and conversely plenty of incompetent ones 'know' that they are the most valuable employee in the company.) Therefore, 'fake it till you make it' isn't directly about basically being a fraud, it's about presenting yourself as the competent professional you (hopefully) pretty much are.

Or, at least, the realisation that everyone else is probably faking it too.


Well, what about the rockstar junior devs who whipped fully functional applications who are later humbled with experiences and cringes at their previously ego-maniacally written code? I was one, and I wouldn't say I was aware of my mistakes, I definitely believed my code was superior (early 20s at the time)


To be fair to the grandparent comment, some of the examples in the article could be interpreted as 'faking it 'til you make it'.

What's most interesting is the nuance of what 'faking it' really means. The woman making up a whole narrative about 'Tonya and the Hardings' - was she thinking 'shit, I know nothing about this band but I like the idea of being on TV so I'm going to make up some lies and hope the conversation moves on to something else'. Or did she genuinely in that moment believe that she knew of this band?

Both seem sort of unlikely, yet one of them has to be true (or a combination of them - as long as you discount the possibility of her being a shill or realising it's a joke and playing along for fun).

There's also some interesting self-selection bias going on - by standing on a street with a microphone you're only going to get people who are more extroverted. Perhaps that's linked with willingness to 'fake it'.

I just find this stuff fascinating.


Faking something is the opposite from truly thinking it - in theory. In practice, faking something with ourward confidence, when met with success, sooner or later builds the confidence inside you as well. Human psychology isn't rational.


Wayne, is that you?

I hated you at first for modifying the core libraries to break standard fuctionality, writing 500-line SQL statements full of string concatenations and using mutable globals all over the place, but now I see your point. Thanks, I have been earning an above average salary fixing your bugs and I will have a job for life. Still, fuck you man.


No, its not Wayne but he's my spirit brother. I can see us both in the forest, banging the drum of expediency while the world flails us with stinging nettles.

"they also serve, who only stand and stuff up the codebase"

Also, FORTRAN globals and variables called i,j and k ROCK!


> Also, FORTRAN globals and variables called i,j and k ROCK!

I always thought they're great in any language with globals, is there a reason they're especially good in FORTRAN?


FORTRAN has some "beautiful" implicit typing rules. Most FORTRAN programmers will disable this with an `implicit none` statement because nobody likes the type of the variable being defined by which character it starts with. So, if the implicit typing rules are in play, i,j,k are definitely integers, otherwise they can be something else.

Offhand, (it has been a long time since I programmed in FORTRAN) I do not know how the scoping rules regarding `implicit none` function with globals. Presumably i, j, k are integers (which would be the implicit type) so it might not be a problem, but they are also often used as basis vectors... so they might be vectors and `implicit none` becomes important.

Also possible, you are dealing with some really old FORTRAN60 compatible code and they are actually iteration control variables and a subroutine wrapped around an arithmetic if is advancing the control variables (which is why they are in global scope) and the outer arithmetic if is performing the branch control as an ur-for loop with gotos. This was the original spaghetti code.


Bob, Is that you?

Whenever I go to the pub and meet old timers still working there keep telling me funny stories about how you swear loudly every time you open a code file I've touched.

Thanks for all the laughs.


I have grown in confidence over 20 years not by building capabilities but realizing that everyone else is guessing just as much as I am. And I'm at least an above-average guesser in my field of "expertise".


Knowing how to ask intelligent questions is the hallmark of a successful bluffer. Out your comrades lack of knowledge by exposing your own as a very clever question


This helped me in quite a few interviews, and I'm only 39yo. Thanks for putting it in a clear, logic and fun way. My brain had guessed the basic mechanism, but hadn't formulated it in words yet.

For that, I humbly concede you the title of my "BS Master".


Oh yeah, fearless question asking is so much more valuable than knowing everything.


I'm going insane over this because recruiters will act as if only noblest prizes are allowed in their companies.

I sincerely do not know if I should: ingest all Knuth, Sedgewick, Cormen, Ulam, Lorenz, VonNeumann, Fermi and Gauss entire scribings[0]

or if I should just lie, make bold claims and ask for 1.5x the usual salary.

[0] I have them on disk.. you can guess what path I picked for now.


Actually, I think the essence of the article is that ignorance is not an absence of mental contents, but a surplus of (wrong) mental contents (he repeatedly refers to 'clutter').

I found particularly interesting his evidence that the effect of education and training can be to increase your confidence in your wrong opinions, rather than reduce the prevalence of those opinions.

Once upon a time, I thought it would improve my driving to take advanced driving classes, and maybe do some practice in a skid-pan (it looks like fun). Now I realise that I'm just not wired to be a skillful driver; I'm not sufficiently risk-averse. Lessons would just make me more confident, and I would take bigger risks. Nowadays I cycle most places, and let my wife drive me to most other places.

I like Dunning's writing; he seems to be a funny man.


another systemic self fulfilling limit ?


Interestingly those who tend to be more realistic in their self expectations are more prone to depression.

False confidence may be the route to happiness or at least optimism.


That sort of observation is really tough to untangle from potential confounding variables though. Seems to me that the causation could go in the other direction just as easily - maybe people who generally have an optimistic outlook on things are more likely to overlook their own flaws and rate their abilities more highly, and vice-versa for depressive types?


This is a known phenomenon among psychologists. People who are more realistic tend to be more likely to be clinically depressed.

Below is a link to a really really brief podcast that talks about the phenomenon. It's very interesting.

https://www.wnycstudios.org/podcasts/radiolab/segments/91618...


Exactly.

And there are healthy and unhealthy types of “false confidence.”

There’s the confidence to take on and commit to (reasonable) challenges with the self-belief you’ll be able to conquer them, even if you have no relevant experience. Then there’s the odious, narcissistic type which functions purely on its own desires, rather than reality.


You're talking about important, related ideas. Confidence is just the expectation of positive outcomes. "Self-belief" or more commonly self-esteem is just about one's own valuation of themselves. Both are related, and both positively correlated to happiness. Finally, "narcissistic confidence" is just arrogance. Also related, and you're right, it is a type of confidence.


>those who tend to be more realistic in their self expectations are more prone to depression.

No, depression comes when you are only applying logic to life and essentially seeing that there is no meaning to it. Logic can not live without meaning, but life is tremendously bigger that our limited logic, regardless how fanciful we make it.

>False confidence may be the route to happiness or at least optimism.

No, this comes from the same point of view. Actually there is no route to happiness because it's here already. There are only routes away and making logic dominating in your life is one of them.


to quote Bill Hicks

>The world is like a ride in an amusement park

https://www.goodreads.com/quotes/494647-the-world-is-like-a-...


Logic tells me there's no objective meaning to life. Logic also tells me that I can pick whatever subjective meaning (for life, myself, my actions, people around me and whatever else).


>> depression comes when you are only applying logic to life and essentially seeing that there is no meaning to it.

Depression is not a question of philosophy of your life.

Philosophy may help you approach the depression, but you can’t get depressed because life is too logical - you may get sad, on the other hand.


> Depression is not a question of philosophy of your life.

Oh I strongly disagree with this assessment. I am not a psychologist, but have suffered from depression on and off my whole life, and I assert that depression is indeed a philosophical problem.

Depression, I think, is the experience of one's mind realizing that its model of reality (philosophy) is too flawed or incomplete to see a concrete path towards meaningful change in one's life, and attempting to build a better model.

This is evidenced by:

1) depressive realism. the mind is being careful to make more accurate assessments.

2) a preference towards inaction. The mind does not trust its model of reality, and is reluctant to take actions with unpredictable results.

3) similar behavior in children undergoing cognitive schema shifts.

Further, I assert that part of the reason society is unable to effect meaningful treatment (for lack of a better word) of many cases of depression is that society's baseline philosophy (empiricism) is part of the model known by the subject to be flawed, and so it has no pre-existing better model to guide the individual towards (though I contend such models do exist if actively sought).

Depression, in my experience, is overcome in only 2 ways:

1) The mind gives up and returns to its previous, known flawed, philosophy and simply rejects the information that highlighted the flaws. This is an unstable state prone to relapse for obvious reasons. In the worst cases, the subject seeks to actively destroy the source of such information. This, I suspect, is essentially the cause of religious or ideological violence.

2) The mind constructs a better model that allows it to once again place confidence in its prediction of the outcomes of its actions. This is more stable, but the new model may still have significant flaws that will ultimate result in a new round of depression.

Needless to say for anyone who has actually been through severe depression, the experience is intensely unpleasant. If a mind is unable to resolve the dissonance between its current model and reality, it may take desperate action to relieve this suffering.

Anyways, I guess what I'm saying is that if my hypothesis is accurate then you can indeed become depressed from trying to apply logic to your life and discovering that logic (empirical logic anyway) alone is not sufficient.


This is the most accurate description of my depression and why it is seemingly impervious to therapy. It's not debilitating to the point of not being able to function in daily life, but is instead a constant, low-grade friction resulting in less drive and confidence and more inaction. Basically, life has taught me that my self-esteem was misguided, and I'm unsure of how to meaningfully act without it, so I just sort of fade away.


Well, if you know that every time you've built a mental model and it didn't work, isn't that logical to assume that _any_ mental model you can imagine isn't perfect and thus you can't empirically assume it will work all the time?

I hear your opinion of "logic" as "I have a passion for being right, and it makes me unhappy when I am not". Is that logical?


baller comment, just wanted to say


>but you can’t get depressed because life is too logical

Can you elaborate? In my experience this is pretty much the only reason for depression, eg life does not happen how your logic tells you it suppose to happen.


Given the articles subject, I’d like to clarify...

Are you an authority or somehow involved in research on depression? Or are you simply feigning knowledge on a subject you know little or nothing about?


I don't have anything to support what I'm saying nor I need to. My knowledge does not come from a billion dollar research, and it does not have to. The question is only are you looking for a solution or a solution proven by authorities of your choice.


This statement, given the previous comments and the context of the article, belies a certain depth, a conundrum I find myself facing periodically.

The basic notion being that, that which we believe, is true. This is nonsense on the face of it. Being nonsense doesn't prevent it from being a seemingly fundamental and perplexing aspect of being a human.


"Love is giving something you don't have to someone who doesn't exist."—Jacques Lacan

Generalizable to: Life has no meaning, but we can give it a meaning.


Also: "Divorce is taking things you no longer want from people you no longer love."—Zadie Smith

With this I agree, the problem comes when we forget we give meaning and we become too serious about something we made up.


There's a federated structure to it too. Some groups will have false confidence in their habits as long as they can make a living. Cue php group having their own rituals, same for python, or java. Each group will feel happy because they share the same false confidence over a similar point of view.


The 'healthy positive delusion' idea is really poisonous. It's more like almost all productive work is stepping into the unknown, so our collection of tools and abilities are going to be stretched regardless of our confidence in them or not.


This is a widespread meme on the Internet, but it's far from an established fact.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Depressive_realism


That wikipedia page is unintentionally hilarious

>This theory remains very controversial, as it brings into question the theory underlying cognitive behavioral therapy, which posits that the depressed individual is negatively biased in their perceptions

CBT is simply a way of coaching the depressed into normative thoughts. Not that there is necessarily anything wrong with that. But CBT fancies the whole thing up with a thin veneer of science-sounding words as a confidence trick. The theory is a tool for congestive dissonance where you don't have to face the fact mental disorders are defined by severe inabilities to function within contemporary norms.


Would you rather be a happy idiot or a miserable know-it-all?


> It is better to weep with wise men than to laugh with fools.

-- Spanish Proverb

I agree, especially since the fools are the major source of things to weep about.


A happy idiot I guess. Since the miserable know-it-all is actually also an idiot, they just don't know it. So they're just a miserable idiot.


Can you really know-it-all? I mean really, whole Universe with its infinity in all depth and dimension? No, this is what makes you miserable not the knowledge itself - but taking on an impossible quest and knowing it but pretending you don't know.


Perhaps the know-it-all is miserable because they’re acutely aware that they’re outnumbered by happy idiots?


> False confidence may be the route to happiness or at least optimism.

For many indeed this leads to some kind of 'happiness'. Buffering our inabilities with lying to ourselves about it. Why did we never learn to be truly happy while being average or even below average. Why did we never learn to tame the ego? It's a curse for life.


We are all confident idiots and this is why the ego was created in evolution.

Ego is needed to make you think you are better than others at something, eventhough initially you may not be. Without ego, people would be Marvin The Paranoid Android but depressed because we didn't have the capabilities or opportunities to compete with all the smarter people around or in history. People that are laser focused and don't listen to any naysayers, those people can become successful more than people that don't even attempt to due to humbling competition.

The reason why childhood is so nice is that you can dream and imagine on becoming anything. Reality bites that in the behind, but the ones that can overcome and pursue, prevail over the ones that do not go beyond their limit. The trick is to be rooted in the real adult world, but break the rules and don't listen to others when you have a desire to push in an area with a beginners or child mind. Just do it says your ego.

The internet is a humbling experience for the ego. Competition was only your local tribe before the internet, now it is worldwide. This is both humbling and also allows humans an insight that has never before been able to be realized, you can see how you need to compete with the entire world. It is inspiring all the time and seemingly insurmountable at times, but jump start that ego and you to can be competing. Everyone can be good at something, time and focus, as well as competition can push you.

Without ego humanity may not have made it this far.

When you convince yourself you can do it, by making iterative gains to fuel more motivation, it must turn to discipline and professionalism, and that means blocks of time all the time on your focused goal or project in both the open (creative / brainstorming / ideas / play) and closed (prototypes / ship time) mode. The overnight successes are always in a multi-year focused strategy.

Check out the market, but don't be too focused on chasing what others are doing, focus on your area that meets your goals. Use that ego motivation and stay away from getting too beat down because others are far ahead.

"Read and write four to six hours a day. If you cannot find the time for that, you can't expect to become a good writer" -- Stephen King

"Amateurs sit and wait for inspiration, the rest of us just get up and got to work" -- Stephen King

"The way to get started is to quit talking and begin doing." -- Walt Disney


>Ego is needed to make you think you are better than others at something, eventhough initially you may not be.

No, ego creates a sense of separation, competition you create on your own.

>Without ego, people would be Marvin The Paranoid Android but depressed because we didn't have the capabilities or opportunities to compete

No, without ego people would do fantastically great. At least they would not do silly competition. Does an apple tree competes with a palm and thinks it's no good because it's not that tall?

>The reason why childhood is so nice is that you can dream and imagine on becoming anything

No, you can dream and imagine at any age, childhood is so nice because your mind is not yet set into straight jacket of logic.

>but break the rules and don't listen to others

The rules you are talking about are only created by you, there is nothing to break just stop creating them.

>Competition was only your local tribe before the internet, now it is worldwide

Only for those who see life this way. There is a plenty of people who are happy like kids and play competition to have fun.

>Everyone can be good at something, time and focus, as well as competition can push you.

If you enjoy life and what you are doing - do you really need a push? A push is only needed to do some crap which you have no interest about.

>Without ego humanity may not have made it this far.

What is "this far"? With all the technological advancements can we claim we are the happiest and most joyous generation ever? How far did we make from ancient civilizations in how profound our lives are?

The rest is too messy to comment about :)


I'd argue all your 'no' and corrections are directly from your ego competing.

The end part of my rant is how you use ego to separate yourself from self constructed walls and competition, and to not rely on motivation but rely on professionalism and discipline, the Stephen King quote exemplifies this.

> The rest is too messy to comment about :)

There is that ego again. You've got all the answers and I got it all wrong. You are right, competition you create on your own.


> Without ego humanity may not have made it this far.

This far? You mean on the road to our complete extinction due to our incomparable stupidity? I sometimes feel truly ashamed to be a human. It's the ego that ruins it all, we could have been so much further. People should learn to be more humble and reject the desire for authority.


> People should learn to be more humble and reject the desire for authority.

Authoritarianism is a horrible force in the world. But it does not mean that ego does not exist, even in fighting against authority. Ego tells you to fight.

One needs an ego to know that authoritarians should be pushed back, walls should be torn down not constructed.

Awareness of ego is the first step in rejecting authority telling you what to do. Authoritarians have their ego tightly coupled to self, and don't realize it is an abstraction of self.

Authority should always be questioned and never trusted because the world operates on self-interest, that is the nature of the game.


> Without ego humanity may not have made it this far.

Not sure. Many teachings, religions are addressing removing ego from your thoughts. I heard that if you take LSD you can actually feel your ego gone with the feeling of being the one with the universe. Might be a great experience?


Agreed. I am a traveler and we are all connected, everything has beauty.

Ego death from psychedelics is realizing ego is a tool, that it isn't truly you, just a tool or armor you use to navigate reality. We live in a self-interested world, people must have an ego or you get steamrolled by the machine and divided by walls. Ego can help you tear down the walls or ignore them entirely as they are the ego of the real world and others. It helps you realize the world is nothing, unless you make it something, unless you create it for yourself.

Ego is "a person's sense of self-esteem or self-importance" and "the part of the mind that mediates between the conscious and the unconscious and is responsible for reality testing and a sense of personal identity".

Awareness of ego is key, psychedelics help you recognize it is an abstraction to you.


It's called ego death and it can also be terrifying. I've tripped with people who thought they were dying because their subjective self identify was dissolving.


"If we wait till we're ready, we'll never get started."—Eleanor Roosevelt


This was helpful, thank you :)


Our school system.. We don't dare to be honest we do not know stuff. For our entire youth we are punished for that with bad figures and bullying.

Therefore the picture at the top of the article is so fitting. Especially lots of people that are graduated have some kind of air around them. Our educational system fucks the mind and ego. Is Einstein not enough prove for the 'being educated' fallacy? He despised the educational system, and I think he was also very right about that.


But tbh our school system just teaches a baseline of abilities we think our youths should know. I honestly don't believe pupils are expected to know everything besides what was agreed on...


> But tbh our school system just teaches a baseline of abilities we think our youths should know.

Just teaches? You mean forces upon children maybe? So what about being punished for not reaching that baseline? What do we learn from that? We learn so much more than the stuff in the textbooks. Our schools and surroundings teach us to be stupid about so many things, it's completely overlooked.

If the result of schools were to be good, how come this civilization is characterized by: war, pollution, destruction of species, poverty, etc, etc.. Something must be wrong there, it must be our education not coincidence.

> a baseline of abilities we think our youths should know.

Yes interesting. What 'we' think.. I think differently, for sure.


While school can and should be improved in many countries, I think it's not really fair to make it out as the root of all evil. That assumes school is an all powerful tool to mold children's minds, when there are so many environmental and genetic factors influencing behavior. As for the societal issues you mention: I think they all have massively complex root causes I couldn't do justice just in a HN comment. But in short: Can world peace be achieved through education? I don't see how.


Being perceived as an unintelligent individual can lead to social rejection, and as with all things that pose the risk of social rejection, it will be avoided at all costs. When one feels that the group accepts them on their other merits, this reaction is defused. None of this seems particularly surprising - we humans have been avoiding social rejection for a very, very long time.


How do you work with an individual who _insists_ they understand how it all works? Even when faced with hard evidence that contradicts their assessments, I'm still told I don't understand or I misinterpreted their words - basically gas-lighting me.

Arguing leaves me unmotivated and frustrated. Giving in is the wrong path. Going to others doesn't seem to move the needle.

Help.


Document, and shut up.

Document every time they say something false - time and date and medium, and exact words.

Shut up: for each instance, say once that they're wrong, then don't argue.

When it matters, when there's a decision where this person's view is threatening to sway matters in the wrong direction, go with a massive documentation dump - everything they've said on the subject, exact words and date and time and context, and evidence of what reality is.

Or else quit. If you quit, when you go, say why.


I don't agree with this. I think you should document a lot of things to CYA, but don't use it unless your ass is on the line. Dropping a load of documented incompetence just to sway a decision is beyond petty, no matter what the decision is. If someone on my team did that I would question their judgement and teamwork.

At some point employees shouldn't manage other employees. Dealing with this person is the manager's job so as a coworker don't try to do it.


This is terrible advice. When you quit you no longer have a stake in the game. Say NOTHING beyond platitudes.


Serious question: What actually goes wrong, in concrete terms, if you explain that you're leaving because you don't want to work with someone who is aggressively incompetent? I get that people won't like it, but how am I actually harmed by speaking the truth? I've heard a lot of wishy-washy answers about burning bridges, but I have trouble making myself believe that's enough reason to let someone continue fucking shit up when they might be stopped if someone just knew what was happening.

Edit: Assume I've already accepted the risk of slightly lower lifetime earnings due to following principles rather than the money.


Slightly lower lifetime earnings? How would that happen?

It might happen if word ever got back to the aggressively incompetent one, and he (maybe it's a stereotype, but I'll assume male gender given the description of the behavior) was in some position of influence at a future job of yours. Well, people do change, sometimes even for the better, but I'd think twice before hiring at such a place in the future.

Or, managers believe him instead of you (or choose to keep him in place and blame you for the message that they didn't like), and those managers wind up at a future place. Same story - it's your cue to not work there.

If this burns you, it burns you at places you didn't want to work for anyway.

Note well: If it's a small job market, this may be a more costly action.


> Slightly lower lifetime earnings? How would that happen?

"Something something burned bridges something opportunities something", I expect. I don't know, it just seems like something the "keep it to yourself" crowd would warn me about. I really want to believe you, which is why I'm looking for good counter arguments (I swear I don't only do this in comment threads about intellectual humility).


Quitting would be more about not wanting to work with idiots than the parting shots.


I no longer have a stake in the game, true. But there are a bunch of people there who deserve better than to have their work lives ruined by someone else's aggressive ignorance. Some of those people I might even regard as friends. Sure, I have nothing to gain for me. I don't tell the truth about why I left for me. I tell it so that it might help others.


The first piece is fine advice. But after quitting, definitely agree you have nothing to gain from saying anything.


> Document, and shut up.

> Document every time they say something false - time and date and medium, and exact words.

Facts don't matter.


Right? Isn’t this a basic premise of the article?

The person will resist the documented facts because they don’t align with their deeply held beliefs.


Their manager might care, though.


Chances are if they do it had nothing to do with the facts.

They were already primed to find an excuse to punish them, but the facts are that, an excuse and never the reason.


I don't think you will ever convince someone they're wrong.

I'm reminded of the beginning of "How to Win Friends and Influnce People" by Dale Carnegie. It spoke of a man who murdered a policeman when he asked to see his driver's license. He went through a trial and ended up in the electric chair. I think the point was the guy didn't say "This is what I get for killing someone" instead he said "This is what I get for defending myself"

You should not let people like this torment you so.

Instead, become a zen master. Develop openness, curiosity and a sort of lighthearted kindness. No scowling or taking things personally from unenlightened troglodytes. You live in the clouds!


The presence of the term "gaslighting" in the comment you are replying to implies that this might be a situation involving narcissism. It's all very well, in a pop psych way, to tell someone "be more zen", but there is little useful overlap between that advice and the course of action that is usually recommended for people dealing with a serious narcissist (to get away from them any way you can).

I don't think you're helping by bringing positive pop psychology and generic consumer zen "mastery" to what is effectively a borderline clinical mental health situation. Narcissism and gaslighting (whatever the actual situation described in the previous comment) are way beyond what can be smoothed away with equanimity and a good attitude. It's unhelpful and a bit condescending to suggest otherwise.


The above situation seems to happen at work, and it's unusual for people with personality disorders to simultaneously have major breaks with reality at work and be undiagnosed long-term. It's odd that it's the first interpretation you are choosing to address (by calling somebody else condescending to boot), although yes, the proper reaction to people with issues that severe is backing away slowly, so it's worth being said to cover all the bases.


Gaslighting doesn't necessarily imply narcissism - it applies any time someone persistently attacks another person's confidence in their own view of reality (starting with just contesting their recollections, moving on to actively messing with their environment).


I was thinking - don't make it your mission to prove a jerk is wrong, don't engage.


So our attitude to others should be more like Wally and less like Dilbert and Alice? I like it! And I may add, “Mission Accomplished”, though it took me over 30 years.


"Early civilizations had no concept of zero."...


> You should not let people like this torment you so. Instead, become a zen master. Develop openness, curiosity and a sort of lighthearted kindness. No scowling or taking things personally from unenlightened troglodytes. You live in the clouds!

Basically, be passive and bully will surely go away theory. If he wont go away, just accept to be a doormat.


You have no idea what they do or don't understand because all you have to go on is a noisy model of their mind in yours.

You need to focus on facts, actions and consequences. They don't understand how it works (your explanation) THEREFORE they question things that you thought had been put to rest? Ask them what would their opinion be IF (factual thing they're mistaken on) was true. Sometimes people do not disagree with you on facts; but their emotions can't let them agree on courses of action. Often you can direct people (with questions) towards verbalizing exactly what you wanted to tell them in the first place.

They don't understand how it works (your explanation) THEREFORE they are saying falsehoods about it to others? Correct the facts one by one as they come by, their model will self-update eventually. That comes standard with the human being firmware.

They don't understand how it works (your explanation) THEREFORE they are making assumptions or having expectations of your own work that are wrong? Kindly redirect by asking what factually they think is wrong with this part of your work, and what they think can be done about it, and who they think is the right person to do it. (I am being vague because you don't specify if the person is your superior, but if not, you can be more forceful in wording)

There is a chance you are in fact misinterpreting their words, because of incompatible jargon, either of you sucking at communication, or irreconcilable difference of interests.


You basically go deeper.. the standard psychological way to do this is to listen and genuinely be interested and ask them to tell you more. Be curious about why they think what they do. Don't argue but seek an understanding of where they are coming from. Usually this forces them to think through their arguments. In the end they will hopefully see the incompetence of their position and probably adapt. This is not easy to do but if you ever have had a highly skilled manager you will see them do this in a group dynamic where there is conflict. It's basically magic.


A french dude has a youtube channel around the skepticism theme. He went to some naturist pseudo science thing and met a woman who was arguing about EMW toxicity backed by a ton of references. He took a long time to ask deeper and deeper, she had a lot to say, but after an hour he finally pinned her to a void at the root of her theory.

It's a long and hard thing to do IMO, gotta have serious patience.


I don't think I can really help, but for what it's worth -- you're definitely not alone.

You may not have this option... but in my org, we can submit feedback to a co-worker's manager at any time during the year. I have, on occasion, submitted negative feedback. I really _really_ dislike doing that. I feel dirty every time. But I view it as a responsibility. I work for a company that designs & manufactures devices that can mean life or death; every time I submit negative feedback I tell myself that it's for the well being of the end-user. When I submit negative feedback, I avoid being vague; I give precise, specific, and well documented examples and try to be as objective as possible. When other co-workers confide in me that they are frustrated with someone else, I give them the same advice: I encourage them not to tell me too much - let's be professional. But, because I respect them as a professional as well, I trust that their feelings are valid and not unfounded. I then tell them to make sure the appropriate people (managers) know - and point them to the feedback link. My hope is that if a manager gets enough negative feedback on a report (and it's all consistent), the problem will sort itself out during the next round of layoffs. Edit: For each piece of negative feedback that I submit, I try to counter act that with positive feedback about somebody else. I'd like to think it acts a little bit like up/down voting.


Avoid interaction with the individual outside of the bear minimum required for work and try and learn to let things go. You'll be much happier for it. If not start looking for a new job.


If the needle isn't moving and you've exhausted the escalation path(which it sounds like you have) it's time to start looking around.

People like that drag orgs down and it's a management problem that either gets recognized and dealt with or people leave. It totally sucks but sometimes if you can't change the dynamics then you need to change the environment you're in.


There's a parable...

If you meet an a__hole in the morning, you met an a__hole. If you meet a__holes throughout the day, you are the a__hole.

Moral of the story, if it's just one person, let them be. You don't have to win.


This is such a dreadful idea to spread.

Many of humanity's most valuable individuals have died alone, become pariahs or were persecuted by their peer groups. This obviously also happens to entire groups of people, not just individuals.

This happens all the time, even in ordinary places where it is clearly wrong. I can even remember back in primary school a couple instances of even teachers bullying unfortunate students.


I agree -- you really only need Galileo as an example of this.

G: "I can prove the world is round!"

Everyone at the time: "Liar! Heretic!"

Later people: "Hmm. Galileo was right. The world IS round! In fact, it's an oblate spheroid..."

Sadly people are often easily lead. All it really takes is one person in good standing in a group to shout "Liar!" and suddenly the whole group is doubting the truth of what's being said.


Maybe you misunderstood the saying? An a-hole is the bully, not the victim. The valuable people you talk about are the victims of a-holes.


Yes, and they kept meeting assholes throughout the day, so IMO that adage is a lot of bull. :-)


I prefer the weaker version:

"If one person tells you you're drunk, and you feel fine, ignore him. If ten people tell you you're drunk, go and have a lie down."


Have them repeat back your point of view in their own words. That's all you can do. People are either rational or irrational. You can't change that part.


I've been in the same position quite a lot recently, so I thought I'd add my 5c. There are a few conclusions I've come to that depend on the person doing this:

1. Gaslighting - definitely possible, though not the first assumption you should make.

2. The person very badly doesn't want it to be true. Usually this is because they're on a tight deadline and/or may not be accustomed to working in a team (who may not share their own deadline).

3. The person doesn't understand your area, and doesn't want to. Their existing (less complete) understanding says that it should work this way. You are therefore the incompetent one, not them.

(On #1, you could be justified in making that conclusion first if your experience resonates strongly with this - highly recommended reading - https://www.issendai.com/psychology/sick-systems.html)

(On #3 - working in an area your boss('s boss's boss, etc) has little or no respect for is hard. This is the basis for the "do you see engineering as a cost centre or value centre?" question when going for interviews.)

Coincidentally with a sibling comment, I'm reading How to Win Friends and Influence People at the moment, and I concur: you can't convince someone they're wrong. Arguing is almost never the best course of action (in any situation).

Some solutions I've found that work sometimes (to address the symptoms at least) -

- Ask them to try it for themselves. Let them use the app / make the request / build the component / create the logical argument / read the docs / read the bug reports / etc. - Ask them for help to find the solution, or ask if you can leave it with them. - Ask them to demonstrate it working as they believe it should.

Once you've done any or all of those things, go have lunch. (I'm assuming they won't want to pair on it there and then given the situation.)

Sometimes when you get back, magic will have happened, and they will have "discovered" it doesn't work - and they'll immediately ask you to do something different, often urgently. Note you won't usually get credit for raising the issue in the first place. At best you're still in the "doesn't understand the considerations at my level" basket in their mind. But nonetheless you'll be asked to do something differently to move past this block.

If that doesn't happen, document somewhere that you've hit this issue, reference the conversation, and any documentation (or write it yourself) and move to another piece of work. If #2 or #3 are in play, missing a deadline is likely not actually your responsibility.

Other times the problem is systemic (which ironically can be a euphemism for "personal"), in which case you may be better off just leaving (assuming you're in a position to do so). You do you, let them do them, without you.


(I would edit for formatting but HN isn't letting me do that for some reason, hopefully that's clear enough. There should be a set of dot points in the second half.)


Have you tried sarcasm? Works a treat. Little by little, undermine them by agreeing but disagreeing with subtle sarcasm until they doubt themselves.

Works, but don't become an asshole yourself.


> Little by little, undermine them by agreeing but disagreeing with subtle sarcasm until they doubt themselves.

This tactic is more toxic then ego itself.


I'm not certain that 'doing the wrong thing for the right reasons' is justifiable. Especially gaslighting another person.

When you stare into the abyss, the abyss not only stares back, but also pulls you in...



The phrase "well-trained idiot" appeared in an HN comment earlier today: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=21123542

Although they mean different things -- a confident idiot is uninformed but convinced he is the opposite; a well-trained idiot has been brought up (usually in an upper social class) learning how to fake intelligence -- I wonder if https://news.ycombinator.com/user?id=who-knows (who submitted this post) read this comment and had the notion bouncing around in their head.

In any case, there's also an "educated idiot": https://www.urbandictionary.com/define.php?term=Educated%20I...


Not to mention the "useful idiot".

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Useful_idiot


...and with 158 comments.


I may have been faking it and making it till I caught on.

I was faced with a trade-off I don’t know how to make.

Do I prioritize urgent work or important work when not doing either has tragic consequences along similar timelines?

Oh! We invented two words that mean the same thing so we can fake our own inability to prioritize?

sigh


Urgent does not mean the same thing as important. Urgent tasks can be important or unimportant, but what makes them urgent is that they must be done soon/now rather than later, or that their value drops greatly if left to later.

Armed with this knowledge, we can categorise tasks in four: urgent-important, urgent-unimportant, unurgent-important, and unurgent-unimportant. Urgent-important tasks are always the highest priority, and unurgent-unimportant tasks the lowest. Where it gets interesting is between unurgent-important and urgent-unimportant tasks, the former should be prioritised if you do not have time to complete all the tasks, and the latter should be prioritised if you do.


This is a perfect example of faking it! The very thing this thread is about.

Instead of figuring out how to make the hard choice between Urgent<->Important in the first place, you've drawn a distinction which lets you kick the can down the road.

Choosing between Unurgent-Important<->Urgent-Unimportant is exactly the same problem as choosing between Urgent<->Important.

You have two tasks: A or B. Which one should you work on first?

The one which is most important/urgent/crucial/paramount/valuable/critical/indispensable/pressing/essential/serious/vital/exigent/burning/paramount/<insert more synonyms here>, obviously!

Is that task A or task B?

"The first principle is that you must not fool yourself and you are the easiest person to fool." - Richard P. Feynman

If you can't assign relative priorities to things - you can't implement a priority queue ( https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Priority_queue ).


Perhaps its my stupidity, but I don't see what this has to do with faking?

The point was that importance is not the same thing as urgency, which the parent comment didn't seem to understand.

>Choosing between Unurgent-Important<->Urgent-Unimportant is exactly the same problem as choosing between Urgent<->Important.

Sure, in the other formulation you simply make the assumption that the important task is unurgent, and the urgent task is unimportant, and so they are the same, as long as we're on the same page.

>You have two tasks: A or B. Which one should you work on first?

I actually did address this. If you have time for both the urgent one comes first, if you may have time for only one the important one comes first.

Urgent is not a synonym for important, and the point of drawing the distinction is to recognise that relative priorities can be different depending on context, such as how much time is available.


>The point was that importance is not the same thing as urgency, which the parent comment didn't seem to understand.

There is nothing to understand about that point. It's a linguistic distinction which makes no practical difference.

The prioritisation problem is like this: When forced to choose which task do you schedule first?

The Urgent one or the Important one?

If you always lean towards Urgent things, you will neglect the Important. If you always lean towards Important things, you will neglect the Urgent.

>Sure, in the other formulation you simply make the assumption that the important task is unurgent, and the urgent task is unimportant, and so they are the same, as long as we're on the same page.

We are on the same page. It doesn't matter how you label them, if two tasks have equal priorities you have no way to decide which task to schedule first.

Conversely: if you have a way to decide which task to schedule first, then (to you) they clearly have different priorities.

The one you've chosen to do is the task with higher priority! Obviously - because you chose to do it first.

You have no solution to this problem. You are faking the fact that you do. You are flipping a proverbial coin (like the rest of us).


>There is nothing to understand about that point. It's a linguistic distinction which makes no practical difference.

It does make a practical difference. Important tasks are higher priority under tighter time constraints and vice versa. I fail to see how this isn't a practical distinction.

>If you always lean towards Urgent things, you will neglect the Important. If you always lean towards Important things, you will neglect the Urgent.

If you do this you failed. The point is lean important when time constrained, urgent when not.

>Conversely: if you have a way to decide which task to schedule first, then (to you) they clearly have different priorities.

They have different priorities IN DIFFERENT CONTEXTS. One is higher when time constrained, the other higher when not. It is clear from reading your comments that you have not understood this.


>They have different priorities IN DIFFERENT CONTEXTS.

That's precisely your error in reasoning! You are violating the ceteris paribus principle by inventing multiple contexts.

We don't exist in multiple contexts. We exist in a single context. The one in which we schedule work - The Universe.

Ceteris Paribus either:

We are in a time-unconstrained Universe in which priority(Urgent) > priority(Important). In such a Universe we would schedule Urgent tasks first.

OR

We are in a time-constrained Universe in which priority(Important) > priority(Urgent). In such a Universe we would schedule Important task first.

So which Universe are we in?


In what universe do you live in that you operate under different time contexts/constraints to the rest of us?

The very fact that you are forced to make a choice between Urgent and Important indicates that you ARE time-constrained within your context.

If you could do both in parallel it wouldn't be a prioritisation problem.

There is only one time context. It's called The Universe. For each worker (human!) Time is a finite resource. It is clear form your comments that you do not understand this.

Having 'different time contexts' means having multiple workers. Multi-threading.


Contrived hypothetical: It's tuesday evening, and I'm updating my to-do's before tomorrow. I have 3 hours after work, and 3 tasks:

1) A meeting (Important Urgent) 1 or 2 hours

2) Buy a gift for someone's birthday (Important - can be done any time but must be done) 1 hour

3) Check the marketplace for a limited sale (Urgent - much better if done immediately, but doesn't matter so much if not done) 1 hour

If task 1 takes only one hour, I do 3 then 2. If it takes two hours, I do 2.

There's two contexts above. Obviously as you pointed out, once you actually get to doing a task, there's only one context. But the point is that when adding a task to your to-do list you don't yet necessarily know what that future context will be.

Your choices here are to either make a priority queue for every possible future context (reasonable for this simple case, but doesn't scale to a more complex one), or mark tasks with the relevant information that will let you easily assemble the appropriate priority queue on the fly, once the context becomes clear.


And what happens if your time-estimates are wrong; or unbounded?

You have two tasks (one Urgent, one Important) and 10 days at your disposal.

If each task takes at least 4 days, which one do you do first?

> But the point is that when adding a task to your to-do list you don't yet necessarily know what that future context will be.

I am not talking about pushing tasks on the queue. I am taking about popping them off the queue.

If you don't know how long a particular task takes how do you decide whether to pop a task off your Urgent or Important queue?

Just-in-Time prioritisation under uncertainty is hard.


Your argument is A != B.

My argument is that your argument is not useful when having to choose between A and B.

If A != B is true, then go ahead and evaluate A > B.


There’s a financial quiz embedded in one of the links in the article. To test my own false confidence, I decided to try it. So before taking the quiz, I decided I would describe myself as reasonably well informed amateur, nowhere close to expert. I got 6 out of 6, but they were fairly easy questions (except for one question about bond yields which I had to think about). After the quiz I’m more certain that I really don’t have the kind of deep knowledge that a quant or someone like that has. So yeah I’d rank myself as a layman.

I’m curious as to how some of the rest of us do? Rank yourself before and after?

http://www.usfinancialcapability.org/quiz.php


According to the Gita, there is a fundamental difference between “real” ego and what it defines as the “false” ego. Real ego is our very essence, the consciousness that makes us aware and awake to reality. The false ego is a false identity crafted to preserve the sense of being the most significant and the most important all the time. In short, it is a narcissistic search for being loved, validated and appreciated. This is what we generally refer to as the ego. The Gita further describes the subtleties of the ego and how it manifests moment to moment in our thoughts, words and deeds.

The concept seems to be stretched too far when we first read about it. But when we honestly study our own lives, we can clearly isolate various episodes of how this tendency manifests itself in our personality, either covertly or explicitly. The events can range from simple conversations on which football team is the best to intense debates in boardrooms on the next important decision for the organization. What’s worse is that the ego blinds us from seeing its own ploy, the ultimate of which is rationalized excuses for avoiding honest introspection and admittance.


Unskilled and unaware of it: how difficulties in recognizing one's own incompetence lead to inflated self-assessments.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/10626367

"Do not argue with an idiot. He will drag you down to his level and beat you with experience" --Mark Twain


I would say the root of this behaviour is our clinging for the acceptance of others. It is a pathos fueling our neurosis and it is also the foundation of society.


What do you expect from a species that has literally only just, barely achieved enough sentience to scrape together a technological society.


Do people believe evolution has, like, actual agency? Unbelievable. If true, this phenomenon is worth studying by itself.


I've just found this site fascinating and also learned that they were shutting down as of Aug. 7. Very sad.


It's called the Dunning–Kruger effect.


Yes, as mentioned by the linked article. Which was written by David Dunning.


Are you sure?


I must be broken, because I am 100% sure I would always respond with letting the interviewer know I do not know that band.

Could this lying behavior be more present in specific countries?


It's probably because they are at a music festival and don't want to come across as people not "in the know" at said festival in front of thousands of people. I'm sure if it was just a newspaper reporter or a random person, they probably would just admit that.




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