[W]e ought to be very skeptical of anyone who claims [to] know how to solve a complex problem…. The world is bigger than the mind, and so real problem-solving requires huge teams of humble people willing to try things out and, if need be, to fail.
My argument has always been that what you learn from using the skills you have—analyzing your strengths and weaknesses—is far more important. If you can program yourself to learn from your experiences by assiduously reviewing what worked and what did not, and why, success in chess can be very valuable indeed.
Not many people want to vote for a candidate who says, ‘I really am not sure how to improve schools in our area, so I plan to pilot half a dozen ideas, and we’ll keep the one or two that we can prove to have worked.’ But the other guy – the one who claims he does know – isn’t telling us the truth about uncertainty and failure. He’s just telling us what we want to hear.

Tim Harford is my new public intellectual crush. More from him tomorrow.

(Source: youtube.com)


“How experts learn, they really learn by looking at their mistakes. And this can be an unpleasant way to live, because who wants to get home after a long day’s work and think about all the stuff you messed up that day? And yet that tends to be a very effective way to learn. As Beckett said: ‘Fail. Fail better. Fail. Fail better.’ It’s that process of realizing that we all make mistakes. We all fail.

“I talk about it in terms of a variety of domains. I talk about it in terms of a backgammon player. After every match, even matches he wins, he goes back and looks at all the moves he did badly.

“I talk about a soap opera director who, after a day of shooting–a 16-hour day–he goes home and puts in the raw tape from that day and forces himself to make a list of thirty things he did wrong. Thirty mistakes so minor that no one else would notice them.

Tom Brady: when Tom Brady watches game tape for hours every week, he’s not looking for the passes he did well. He’s looking for the passes he missed, for the open men he didn’t find.

“We need to think about how we think about learning and see mistakes as the inevitable component of learning.  You can’t learn at a very fundamental level unless you get stuff wrong.  And so not to fear our mistakes. Not to loathe them. Not to be so scared of making them. But to realize that we have to, in a sense, celebrate them. That they are an inevitable component of learning and you can’t learn without them.”

-Jonah Lehrer, on Open Source

Why Most Published Research Findings are False

Science is still a lot of trial and error, with added emphasis on the error.  This is why we should trust meta-analyses and settled science rather than any individual new study.