Sunday, April 19, 2015

Incompetence, Against Our Nature

Donald Rumsfeld  once made an astute observation once that included the phrases "known unknowns, and unknown unknowns" ... the whole quote bears repeating.
There are known knowns. These are things we know that we know. There are known unknowns. That is to say, there are things that we know we don't know. But there are also unknown unknowns. There are things we don't know we don't know.
Naturally, the press found the whole discussion to be another "proof" of Rumsfeld's stupidity and ignorance. This article gives a good insight into the  basic science behind why they would react that way. (note, it isn't because they were correct in any way)

What the article covers is that when we are incompetent, we generally are not aware of it, and the more incompetent we are, the more our general tendency is to radically over-estimate our competence even when faced with evidence of our incompetence. To know and accept "unknown unknowns" is on the path to wisdom ... a path we are not wired to walk.

With a moments thought, the fact of our general incompetence is completely obvious. Let's name a few fields -- engineering, medicine, economics, plumbing, electrician, pilot, florist, motorcycle racer, farming and  bar tender.

We could go on for pages -- listing specialties, etc, but the above list ought to be enough to convince the non-politicians among us that we are grossly incompetent in more than at best a few listed, BUT, the article tells us we almost certainly VASTLY overrate our expertise in the ones we are least competent in! It's called "human nature" -- what we DON'T know VASTLY exceeds what we do know.

Rather than running around fully conscious of this massive inadequacy, we simply kid ourselves. Why feel like a total dunce just because you ARE a total dunce. Right? We LIKE to feel good -- so we lie to ourselves! It is something that humans EXCEL at. We are basically all certain that we are above average drivers -- which rationally makes no sense at all, but we ARE NOT rational! We are RATIONALIZING!

I poked fun at politicians above, but it applies equally well to media people, in general to managers and any sort of "leader".  NOTE, I'm NOT saying that we don't need leader types, nor that many of us don't need to assume those positions at times, only that like anything else that humans do, leadership / authority is strongly adversely affected by our basic natures.

BO more than once commented that he was better at any job that those that work for him.
“I think that I’m a better speechwriter than my speechwriters,” Mr. Obama told Patrick Gaspard, his political director, at the start of the 2008 campaign, according to The New Yorker. “I know more about policies on any particular issue than my policy directors. And I’ll tell you right now that I’m going to think I’m a better political director than my political director.”
BO is an especially egregious case, but we ALL have this basic problem, and it gets WORSE as people rise in power / leadership. Almost certainly you have hired contractors that you felt you "could have done as good or better a job as". My advice is to sheet rock, tape and paint a room yourself -- take your time, do the best job you can! To do it right, you need to live with that room a few years -- get to know the flaws. Remember how hard you worked to get it right.

Then, ideally, hire a set of Spanish speaking illegals to show up and sheet rock, tape/mud a much more complicated room. WATCH THEM ... and keep track of the time, then look at the finished job. After you get done crying, you ought to be significantly smarter about your incompetence! But it STILL will not be your nature -- that is wired in. It can't be fully fixed by mere experience.

The big civilization killing problem is that we end up with leaders like BO that have NO CLUE about their incompetence, and they are reported on by reporters who are just as blind!!!

Our founders understood this. They assumed a people that recognized God and thus had at least the base for wisdom. They provided a Constitution and separation to limit the damage that guaranteed incompetent leadership (there is no other kind, we use humans!) could cause. They tried very hard to protect us!

The senselessness of "progressive" thought -- the idea that the latest thought is always the best, as well as the extreme danger of government size and power growing can be easily understood by observing this one easy to understand and easily verifiable fact of our shared nature.

If we were rational beings, we could all agree on this -- but it is against our nature. We got to where we were when we landed on the Moon because well over half of us understood that "The fear of God is the beginning of wisdom".

The scale has tipped the other way -- so now we foolishly decline.

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