Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Missing the forest for the trees...

A few related quotes...

From Garrett Hardin in Filters Against Folly (a book Peter Bevelin mentioned as one of the two things he re-reads every year in his 2007 interview):
It is unfortunately true that experts are generally better at seeing their particular kinds of trees than the forest of all life. Thoughtful laymen can become very good at seeing the forest, particularly if they lose their timidity about challenging the experts. When I speak of laymen ("laypersons," if you prefer) I am talking about everyone, because the expert in one field is a layman in all others. In the universal role of laymen we all have to learn to filter the essential meaning out of the too verbose, too aggressively technical statements of the experts. Fortunately this is not as difficult a task as some experts would have us believe.
From Nassim Taleb in Antifragile:
I once testified in Congress against a project to fund a crisis forecasting project. The people involved were blind to the paradox that we have never had more data than we have now, yet have less predictability than ever. More data—such as paying attention to the eye colors of the people around when crossing the street—can make you miss the big truck. When you cross the street, you remove data, anything but the essential threat.
From Chris Begg:
One of the most limiting biases for individuals attempting to make sense of complex systems is that they are a part of the systems. When you are part of the system it becomes increasingly difficult to see the forest for the trees. Each individual tree’s uniqueness and complexity can lead to confusion and ambiguity. The key is to attempt to step outside of the system and see the forest and trees for the essence of what they are.
From Howard Marks:
Information and knowledge are two different things. We can have a lot of information without much knowledge, and we can have a lot of knowledge without much wisdom. In fact, sometimes too much data keeps us from seeing the big picture; we can “miss the forest for the trees.”