💩 bullshit

*or George Box

Let's recap how we got to today.

  • Monday, we introduced Kahneman and Mauboussin and emphasized that names matter.

  • Tuesday, we looked at megaprojects, noted the consistent error, and warned about stories.

  • Wednesday, we headed back to the world of sports to see the change from scouts to sabermetricians and the roll of the media.

Today, we emphasize the work required. This might be the most difficult perspective. Not to assume, but to shoulder.

One way to adopt the outside view is to imagine you're physically from out-side. This was Tom Wolfe's technique and he aimed to be 'the man from Mars.'

As Wolfe traipsed around the country talking to people about their lives he realized something-he didn't know a lot about their lives.

When he tried to fit Wolfe said, "I was depriving myself the chance to ask some very obvious questions." Noting the error of his ways, Wolfe literally embodied an outsiders attire: the white suit.

Okay, don’t fit in, easy enough. But it’s not easy. It’s easy to fit in with the people around you as well as your own point-of-view. We’ve evolved to seek confirming evidence.

Brian Caplan is an economist at George Mason University and dining partner to Tyler Cowen. The erudite polymath praises Caplan for his approach to new and interesting problems. One of Caplan's ideas is the ideological Turing test.

Riffing on the - named after Alan - Turing Test, Caplan asks if a person can mimic another view. "Once you can pass that test then you've at least indicated you understand a view you disagree with."

This creates a handy visual; a Turing Test robot in a white suit.


My favorite word is bullshit. My least favorite emoji is 💩.

We used that emoji this week because it’s easy to fall for the bullshit of others and the bullshit of ourselves. The outside view takes work because it’s often non-conforming to our lives, it’s hard to find, and it’s about other people. We like stories, hell this email is built on them, but numbers are just stories in another language. Now we know the name of the thing: base rates and the outside view.