Saturday, October 25, 2008

Intelligence - Part VI

In another context, I acknowledged how little I know about the issues of the day. I know little economics, foreign policy, or communications technology. I know perhaps 10% of what I would need to to converse intelligently on those subjects. But an Assistant Village Idiot has an advantage. The experts in these fields know 30-40% of what they need to to run things - not because they are stupid, or hidebound, or lazy, but because complex subjects contain a great deal that is unknowable. Donald Rumsfeld took a lot of flak about his comments about Known Unknowns, but he was spot on. There is information that we believe is known or could be known, but we don't have it, such as enemy location or secret agreements. There is an empty area of knowing beyond that, the Unknown Unknowns - the chance events which change everything and we will have to adjust to. The common practice is to not think about these much at all, because how can we plan for what we cannot know? Yet we can build in flexibilities and redundancies which don't look necessary. And we can keep making ourselves humble about what we don't know.

The Assistant Village Idiot tries to stick with what he knows. He fails at this, being too full of himself and puffing himself up about patterns perceived. Being an actual Village Idiot is a difficult task, and few attain it.

1. Focus on what constitutes a logical, versus emotional or social argument. Especially from your allies, and most especially from yourself.
2. See what you see.
3. Retain a childish and archaic notion of what constitutes fair play.
4. Every time you think you're right, go back to Step 1.
5. Keep the core knowledge at hand. In a religious discussion, remember what most Christians for 2000 years have said the Scriptures teach about a topic. In a political discussion, remember basic civics.

This doesn't sound anywhere near as wise as it did while I was thinking it up.


joe blowe said...

Check this one out:
The Black Swan: The Impact of the Highly Improbable (Hardcover)
by Nassim Nicholas Taleb (Author)
A very interesting book on this topic.

Assistant Village Idiot said...

apparently joe didn't read parts I-V. He's right, though. I guess I'll regard it as confirmation of a sort that I got the concepts right.