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How to Learn From The Turkey

Tags WATT, AU, AU2011, Autodesk University

As we approach Thanksgiving and Autodesk University 2011 it's good to remember to

Learn From the Tale of the Turkey

The skeptic philosopher Nassim Nicoloas Taleb explores many aspects of our human quandary in his book The Black Swan – The Impact of the HIGHLY IMPROBABLE.
Our current tendency to misapply Gaussian methodology and tools (the bell curve) in incorrect economic, scientific, and social contexts is the case in point and for which Taleb is most well known.

Taleb employs an apt illustration of our inductive problem first proposed by Bertrand Russell and paraphrased here:

For a thousand days the turkey is well fed and tended by human beings.
Life is both comfortable and predictable.
On the Wednesday before Thanksgiving a major event occurs.
As the Red Queen put it, "Off with his head!"
 
There is little data is the turkey’s first thousand days that offers him any hope of predicting or even understanding the consequences of a human holiday.
In the real world these improbable events occur. 
We are not naturally well equipped to deal with the problem of The Black Swan.

“How can we know the future, given knowledge of the past; or more generally, how can we figure out properties of the (infinite) unknown based on the (finite) known?’

The "nature" of the improbable is certainly not confined to the negative and potentially disastrous.

“When I ask people to name three recently implemented technologies the most impact our world today, they usually propose the computer, the Internet, and the laser.
All three were unplanned, unpredicted, and unappreciated upon their discovery, and remained unappreciated well after their initial use.
They were consequential. They were Black Swans.
" - Nassim Nicoloas Taleb

Our critical thinking skills may not "insure" we'll choose to learn from the turkey.

Every day we always seem to ask WATT (What Are They Thinking) ?
The Tale of the Turkey seems to suggest to me this may be the wrong question.

I Know People Think Differently

Will I Behave Like They Do?

Join me at AU 2011 as we explore How People Make the Improbable Possible.

More is Possible