Thursday, January 24, 2013

Quote of the Day: The Necessary is Not to be Confused with the Causal

A drivers license is something binary: Pass/Fail. Nobody is foolish enough to try to get high scores in it to improve his CV with a "drivers license from the prestigious center X, summa cum laude". We understand the nonlinearity there; and we get the point that failing the test makes one a bad driver on the road, but better grades at the test won't necessarily make one a better driver. It is an entirely via negativa statement; failing (the negative) is where the information resides, where school knowledge may map to reality. The necessary is not to be confused with the causal.

Now try to translate the idea into other areas of education. The statement "failing to get a degree is bad for you" does not necessarily mean that "better grades are good". It may even mean that higher grades might indicate a sick mind. This is the difference between SATISFICING and OPTIMIZING. An ecologically calibrated person, aware of the fuzziness of the mapping betwen education and skills, should be able to aim for just pass, and not be penalized by the nerd wasting time on fitting his brain cells to the exam at the expense of other skills and activities, such as street fights, reading Montaigne, or meditating under a tree. Given that university knowledge does not map to true knowledge, to protect people from themselves, university degrees should never be anything but binary, without the fluff "honors, shmonors", etc.
This is from Nassim Nicolas Taleb on Facebook expanding his thoughts from Book IV of his latest book, ANTIFRAGILE.

Satisficing and optimizing has been likewise a dilemma to most participants in the financial markets where the mainstream mostly adheres to conventional tools and methodology to satisfy accepted social norms rather than investigating unorthodox perspectives to attain the optimal.

In short, crowd thinking versus critical thinking.

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