Thursday, November 16, 2006

Grand truths about human behavior
It's more complicated than that.

Unintended consequences inevitably attend purposive social action. (Robert K. Merton)

All the world is multivariate.

Much of the world is distributed lognormally.

People are different.

Rehearsal improves performance.

Effective intervention-thinking and choice-thinking necessarily require reasoning about comparisons, approximations, opportunity costs, and causality.

Controlled statistical comparisons have a much better chance of getting it right than case studies or anecdotes.

All grand theories, other than perhaps the scientific method, ultimately err (and many collapse) by overreaching.

"For a successful technology, reality must take precedence over public relations, for Nature cannot be fooled." (Richard Feynman)

"It is a principle that shines impartially on the just and the unjust that once you have a point of view all history will back you up." (Van Wyck Brooks)

In explanations of human activities, both muddling through and incompetence are under-estimated, and both rational optimizing and conspiracy over-estimated.

Nearly all self-assessments claim above-average performance.
Link from Memo.

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