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July 19, 2014


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"not even those who who about decision theory".

Proof-reading is another way of being smart.


@Steven - as you've shown. Thanks. Correction made.


"...[O]ne line which is importantly and true"?


This is very wise.

One of the most common problems in business and government is a lack of perspective. Person A views the world from one perspective and has facts and logic based on that perspective. Person B views the world from another perspective and has facts and logic based on that perspective. Each person sees their own perspective as ‘scientific’ as it is based on facts and logic. However, each person assumes that the other is viewing the world from the same perspective. Chaos ensues.

Imagine that two people are looking at a house. Person A looks at the house only from the front while person B looks at the house only from the back. A argues that front doors are the most important feature of a house. B can’t see a front door and assumes that A is crazy. A hears B’s response and assumes that B is the crazy one. Meanwhile, person C who lives inside the house thinks that both A and B are crazy as neither has any sense of perspective.

“The other guy is crazy” is a very common argument used by people who don’t acknowledge or understand each other’s perspective. You might imagine that only very dumb people would get into this situation. However, based on practical experience of both the public and private sectors, that’s not true. The most likely people to lack perspective are those who are intellectually very intelligent (so they are very sure of their own perspective) but lacking in emotional intelligence (so they underestimate the value of any other perspective).

Political and economic ideologues do this all the time. In an ideal world, all politicians and economists should have sufficient emotional intelligence to be able to view the world from multiple perspectives and then compare what they see from these perspectives before coming to any conclusions. Sadly, it often appears that a complete absence of both perspective and emotional intelligence is one of the few pre-requisites for both of these professions. The most depressing aspect is that politicians and economists can see the lack of perspective in their opponents but not in themselves. Just because “the other guy is crazy” it doesn’t follow that you are not.


@ Jidomini - thanks. Correction made

Roy Lonergan

Another soft-skill would be bluffing. So you should have said that the typos were there for an ironic purpose.
More of a problem would be that the ability of managers to sequester the profits of a business, or achieve regulatory capture in an industry, or convince the world that their banks should have a huge implicit subsidy, are very high-level soft skills. So soft skills can be very bad things.
Not sure that there's any way out of that dilemma. Perhaps other than to stop all training in soft skills so that we would know that all the bosses had achieved their status due to inherent psychopathy so that we could take them out and shoot them.



You're being a bit harsh on yourself re your ability to tell people want they want to hear.

The description of Richard and Toby in your first line is a case in point. Exactly the kind of thing I and, I suspect, many of your readers love to hear. And no less true for it.


The folks committing mass war crimes in Gaza would agree with you about Fischer and Atzmon.


Rachel T touches upon a fundamental point about education - most of us are not especially brilliant and will have to get along with what talents we do have. Teachers can only put in so much, the rest has to come from within. What is worse is that only a very few graduates will ever make a real contribution in their field - either they don't have the spark or they are never in the right place/time. Which suggests to me that either the education process is very inefficient - and I don't mean bring back Gove - or we must accept that any humane education process must allow people to develop the best way they can and live with the apparent inefficiency.

An Alien Visitor

I wonder how many 'child geniuses' have actually contributed anything to humanity? All they seem to achieve is startling TV presenters with the ability to solve equations in their heads quickly or paint cathedrals with their feet!

I think collective intelligence is more important than that of any individual, i think progress is a collaborative effort.

Jen Kirby

I gather that Toby Young has never spent time trying to keep a small boy amused and out of mischief. Brains and ingenuity are definitely needed!

Cosma Shalizi

Persi Diaconis tells the joke about expected utility theory as something that happened to him (see, e.g., p. 36 of "Thinking Too Much", online at http://statweb.stanford.edu/~cgates/PERSI/papers/thinking.pdf). It might be older.

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