Wednesday, February 2, 2022

Most of What You Read and Hear is Nonsense

In 90% of Everything Is...Take a Guess, Andy Kessler references Sturgeon's Law, named for science fiction writer Theodore Sturgeon. Sturgeon, outraged that critics declared that all science fiction is bad, asserted that 10% of science fiction is good, and added "90% of everything is crap."

Kessler spoke with Marc Andreessen, who developed Mosaic (the first internet browser) and later founded Netscape. They discussed what Kessler terms "the replication crisis in scientific studies"--more than half of studies cannot be replicated. Kessler and Andreessen agreed that two of the most dangerous phrases in the English language are "studies show" and "experts say." Those who declare "follow the science" should take heed, but they probably will not; those who blindly believe in "following the science"--which, unfortunately, has nothing to do with following the scientific method--should train themselves to read and listen with a critical eye/ear and a skeptical mind. Skepticism is an essential part of science; blind following is done by cult members, not real scientists.

Their conversation shifted to Sturgeon's Law, and Andreessen noted that it applies not just to science fiction but that it is "the nature of creative work. There are only a few people in each field that know what to do. The reason I'm so fascinated by this is the ethic of our times is egalitarianism. Everybody's the same, everyone is equal. The conceit of the times, the ethos that if only you put the work in, you'll get good results. It's not just effort. It's not just accidental. There's something else going on. In these domains, we have a very small number of people who know what to do. And we have a much larger number of people typically laboring under some set of delusions--generating crap. It is what it is. I wish there were more quality painters...or entrepreneurs."

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