When knowledge is evil

I’m more convinced than ever that having more knowledge in a subject doesn’t guarantee you make better decision. On the contrary, “information” can crowd your mind and ability to make good judgment on a situation. You can see it in action, when fans of a football team are crying out for the most obvious decision that could prevent the club from losing their next game. Fans are by no means true experts of the game. But if they were to take over the club, they would be taking the safest, most conservative steps and still be doing better than a few of our so-called “world-class” coaches today, whom are being paid millions. Please refer to Rafa Benitez on how he manages Liverpool for the 2007-2008 season. It has to be said that his knowledge of the game and his team is so great that he truly believes he knows more than anyone else about the potential of some undistinguished players that he uses as well as the infamous tinkering of his team formation every other game. (as quoted by Malcolm Gladwell on the atrocity of decisions made by Isaiah Thomas, GM of the New York Knicks) A classic case of paralysis by overanalysis. Forward to this year and it seems that Rafa has taken a “make-me-stupid” pill and maintained a more consistent line-up using “conventional wisdom” which yield ultimately far superior results.

Interesting point that I need to note here (a bit of a reinforcing side-fact) is the claim of many women to know a lot about men. I have heard of many statements of sensible ladies proclaiming that men are predictable and that they can be simply described as “this and that”. I think that’s the trouble with women is that they truly believe that they know more than anyone else about the potential of their undistinguished partner. Boys will be boys. Men will be men. We are what we are. Superficial in the sense that we uses dicks more than our heads most of the time and rationale in the sense that we expect argument to be based on logic rather than on emotions. That sorta whimsical idea of a hidden potential you see inside us to become something that you thought we could be, I must say unfortunately, doesn’t exist in us at all. Like Chesterton says, “A man’s friend likes him but leaves him as it is: his wife loves him and is always trying to turn him into somebody else.” That probably why women are more loyal and stick with their men, they overrate our value because they claim more knowledge on who we are really.

So going with this premise, I’m reading the views of experts with a great deal of skepticism. Why? Because most of em operate through hindsight bias, which is really the glorified ability to explain events ONLY after they have occurred. Our brain has many wonderful functions. And one of em is to naturally assign narrative or meaning to a string of events when put together. It makes it easier to remember and takes less toil on our grey matter, as finite as it already is. And many experts are paid to do this very thing, which is really the natural ability of most healthy and whole human beings. If experts are so great in identify causes and effects of events, why aren’t majority of em making shitloads of money in the stock market or in the profession of fortune telling? Instead of convincing us that there is more to it than just a bunch of random events being stringed up together which ultimately led to our Great Recession, 9/11, the Swine flu or the first coming of Jesus Christ?

Could it be that not everything in our lives happened for reasons that we simply coughed up with our intelligent analytical minds? That the thing that happened is just the thing that happened. Try as we might, we can’t predict it or change it. It is what it is. World economy collapses. Deal with it. Yes, we all know it’s caused by human greed and all but that doesn’t changed the fact that IT HAPPENED. We can’t stop it no matter how much we think we know about the subject. It is a black swan event. Your relationship fails. Looking back at how it transpired, you think you can do some different to change the outcome. But the truth is, you can’t. It happened. The fact is most people would naturally assign guilt upon themselves for what happened. Don’t. Learn and move on. Don’t believe that it’s the end of the world when a black swan appears in front of you.

The coming of Jesus Christ is another example of one such event. I think what God had in mind is not whether how much we could theorize about the probability of such an event happening or whether do all the scientific evidences point towards such history? (which is really missing the point because the analysis of science and history is performed on different premise of investigation) The point is “How does one respond when confronted by such an event?” Because for all that has been heard and documented, some event about a Son of God becoming human to die for our sins DID HAPPENED. (no matter the differences in the slant of the narrators are and their points of view)

I’m reading less of the newspapers nowadays and decided to dedicate more attention to the world of fiction and myths. It seems to be more nourishing for my soul. It stretches my imagination and allows me to enter a world of unicorns and giants. As far as I know, world-changers are defined by the extremity of their thought and outlook in life. Not that I believe I’ll ever be one. But it’s cool to know that by doing this, I’m one step closer to it.

Get rid of your tunnel-vision. Learn to deal with less information, hence less options and go with your gut. After all, decision are easier made with less choices available.

One of my favourite quotes is by Soren Kierkegaard,

“Life can only be understood backwards; but it must be lived forwards.”

We should endeavor to do both well. The former with a bit of skeptism. The latter with every bit of optimism.

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3 Comments

Filed under Introspection

3 responses to “When knowledge is evil

  1. winnie

    it’s ironic isn’t it? you’d think that the more knowledge and information we have, not to mention the never-ending choices we’re bombarded with … that things would get easier. on the contrary, in fact.

    • gregorychang

      You should listen to the barry schwartz talk, the paradox of choice.

      “The secret to happiness… the real secret to happiness… get this… is LOW EXPECTATIONS.”

      Everyone in the audience laughed. Because they know it’s partly true.

      • winnie

        Yeah I did… it was real interesting. In fact, it lined up really nicely with a talk by Dan Gilbert – author of Stumbling Upon Happiness. He talks about synthetic happiness vs natural happiness, which also ties in with choices. Really makes you think. There’s too much to go into here, but I will say one thing: we’re the engineers of our own unhappiness …

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