Good one. The explanatory depth part reminds me of another great post (http://johnsalvatier.org/blog/2017/reality-has-a-surprising-amount-of-detail), which really drives the point home that EVERYTHING is so insanely detailed, and you realize it only when you (have to) pay attention. For example, stairs are easy when you don't have to build them, but become an engineering marvel when you actually have to build them. Really makes you appreciate the makers of the world. They're in the same boat as we are, but manage to actually... make things? Despite this insane amount of detail in reality? That's crazy.

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May 31, 2022Liked by Adam Mastroianni

Excellent stuff. The explanatory depth fallacy was nicely illustrated (literally) by having subjects draw a bicycle. Much harder than it sounds.

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Great post! Many people think that they know about something just because they can talk about it. Knowing and really understanding (i.e. standing under) some subject are worlds apart. I believe that people know the least about their own psyche or even that it exists.

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Oct 9, 2022Liked by Adam Mastroianni

I think that the planning fallacy is actually very necessary: if we knew from the start how much time and resources getting stuff done would take, in most cases we'd just give up and only dedicate our time to small things that wouldn't benefit as much in the long run.

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Oct 7, 2022Liked by Adam Mastroianni

Nice list. I've always struggled to balance the planning fallacy with Parkinson's Law ("any project will expand to fill the time allotted"). On the one hand, you should probably add a fudge factor to any project estimate, lest you fall victim to the planning fallacy. On the other hand, Parkinson's Law suggests that once you've once you've added your fudge factor, you will likely take on more scope b/c in your brain you've given yourself "more than enough" time, so why not take on a little more?

So the planning fallacy leads to missed deadlines, but when you attempt to correct for it, it can team up with Parkinson's Laws and lead to ... still missing deadlines. Only now the deadlines are more conservative, and the project may have contained work that you didn't even need to do simply b/c you "had time".

After 30+ years of being a human, I still have no idea how to resolve this. My best strategy is to discount initial estimates by a little bit, have a bias against adding scope, try really hard to hit the deadline, and then be kind to myself if/when I don't, b/c almost hitting an aggressive deadline is still better than almost hitting a conservative deadline (or even *actually* hitting a conservative deadline, in some cases).

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Jun 1, 2022Liked by Adam Mastroianni

Excellent! Thank you!

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Dec 29, 2022·edited Dec 29, 2022

I have long been a victim of the illusion of explanatory depth. I cannot remember a time since age seven or thereabouts that I was not in the middle of reading a book. The result is that some fifty years later I have built up a good general knowledge - which I tend to vastly, preposterously, overestimate.

Or at least, I did, until Covid hit us. Being the clever guy, I naturally had all manner of opinions on it, almost all of which turned out partly or wholly wrong. As the thing unfolded, I was struck time and again by just how little I actually know, compared to what I thought I knew.

Of course, all the lockdowns gave me plenty of time to read, so I read some more popular books on various fields. A year or so later I found out that professionals in those fields consider those books to all be at about the level of Velikovsky. I'll spare the authors embarrassment by not mentioning their names here, but all of them are very popular ones indeed, and their books very widely cited in social media discussions.

And so I learned the hard way that I'm a know-nothing, arrogant fool, or at least spent much of my life as one. But I'm still interested in all manner of stuff, dammit! So what to do?

I found a novel solution. When I now want to know something about a field, say, modern astronomy or epidemiology or climate science, I read a children's book about it. This has three advantages:

1. You get a fair general overview of the field (and face it, by plowing through a thick tome I'm probably only going to remember a kids' book version of it anyway);

2. You get said overview in an easy-to-read, usually beautifully illustrated manner, which is far more fun than plowing through a thick tome; and

3. Most importantly, I now KNOW I have actually only read some children's books on the subject, so I no longer begin to mistake myself for an expert. It makes me more open to the novel idea of asking questions about it rather than trying to dominate the discussion.

Incidentally, your region beta paradox makes me think I might soon do something completely irresponsible, and it excites me... :-)

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I had a great time reading this (…though I suppose I won't remember it as fondly tomorrow).

The region beta paradox is my favorite. Gonna try to remind myself to ask, "If this got even worse, would it drive me to do something that leaves me better off?"

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Haha loved this!

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"The illusion of explanatory depth" + some gumption = Dunning-Kruger Power Effect (piety as a form of "midwittery") https://theredqueen.substack.com/p/dunning-kruger-power-effect?s=r

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