Thought for the day: Can a cloud weigh as much as a Boeing 747 aeroplane?

You’re thinking no. But you’d be wrong. Don’t believe me, well click on this link.

The above example demonstrates that things aren’t always as they seem. Conventional wisdom or common sense can often be wrong. Considerably more dangerous are those who posses a small amount of knowledge (and frequently little or no experience) but continue to voraciously expound on topics of which they knew nothing about before this mornings visit to Google.

We’ve all fallen into that trap (and Google has made it worse). We have access to information (is it really knowledge) at the speed of click. And that has the unfortunate ability to transform us into sheep like drones, ‘baaing’ out the received wisdom to all comers.

Expertise on call, but do we really know what we’re talking about? I’ve frequently had to pinch myself dealing with supposed experts in a commercial situation. They often have absolutely no idea what they’re blabbing about, and even worse I’ve noticed that these clowns are so incompetent they don’t have the cognitive model to recognise others actual expertise (for geeks among you this is known as the Dunning-Kruger effect), so you get sucked into circular arguments about trivial intangibles, rather than talking about what really matters.

In my personal experience I’ve noticed that the truly expert seemingly magic the important characteristics of a problem or its solution out of thin air. Give them a problem and they quickly identify the key issues, workarounds, and present a solution whilst simultaneously ignoring all the irrelevant dross which occupied the less experienced minds who came to them in the first place. Ask them how they do it, and they can’t tell you. These individuals are able to take complex learning experiences from one situation, and neatly transfer them to unrelated problems. Their minds work at a greater level of abstraction, a higher level if you will – which tunes out noise.

Now why am I telling you this? Well it’s been on my mind for ages, and it’s one of the constant frustrations of working in the 21st century that is so perfectly captured in the Dilbert cartoons. But basically someone so thick they can’t recognise their own thickness is bugging me today, so there.

SS.//

Here are some other pieces of received wisdom which may be wrong:

  • Napoleon was short – Actually he was 5′ 7” – pretty tall for a Frenchman of his day
  • Eve ate an apple – Actually she ‘ate a fruit of a tree in the middle of a garden’
  • Shakespeare wrote Hamlet – Apparently most of his plays were not originals but adaptations of other stories.  Hamlet was allegedly based on a Scandinavian story

1 Comment

  1. Great article – loved the Dunning-Kruger effect too. Write more
    damnnit!

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