When You Don’t Know What You Don’t Know
Wrap your arms around uncertainty and accept it. Focus on the process instead. Anne Duke
Once again, this blog is the result of an article I recently read, “The Resulting Fallacy Is Ruining Your Decisions, by Stuart Firestein, who interviewed Annie Duke, a successful poker player, who was a graduate of Columbia and later studied cognitive linguistics in graduate school. Nautilus Magazine, Dec. 7, 2017. This was an interesting article for me because of its focus on probability and uncertainty, which exists because of the hidden information problem. And it makes the point that the decision and the outcome may not be related. I like the way Annie Duke says things; I hope you do too.
Here is what she says about uncertainty:
We know the facts we know, but there may be facts that we don’t know. Then the job of the decider is to reduce the uncertainty as much as they possibly can, but to understand that they’re always working within a range and they have limited control over how things turn out on any given try.
Here is her great metaphor explanation:
Say I have a fair coin. I can tell you exactly what the probability of heads of tails on the next flip is. But I can’t tell you what the next flip will be. That’s what accepting outcomes is like. In life, it’s usually more complicated because in most cases we haven’t examined the coin. We don’t know if it is a fair coin. That’s the hidden information problem. We can’t see everything. We haven’t experienced everything.
Here is what she says about outcomes:
We’re rational beings that think things should make sense. It’s very hard for us to wrap our heads around a bad outcome when we didn’t do anything wrong. Or that there’s a good outcome that’s just random. If we know that outcomes infect us, we want to separate ourselves from outcomes as much as we possibly can when we’re thinking about decision quality. Sometimes the decision is incredibly remote from the outcome.
Anne Duke is saying things I have been writing about for years. Because I like the way she says them I am hoping that the way she says these things will give you a different view that improves your understanding of probability, uncertainty and the decision and outcome relationship.
Remember my theme:
The minute you make up your mind that the way you see things makes a difference, it will make a difference in the way you see thigs — and do things.