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« that whisper of tinkling piano keys (or meditations on Beauty) | Main | Accept No Imitations »

Jan 30, 2007


Franklin Mint Julip

"How you think matters more than what you think."

It's a matter of judgment style, first expressed by the ancient Greek warrior poet Archilochus: "The fox knows many things; the hedgehog one great thing."

The idea was later expanded by essayist Isaiah Berlin. In Tetlock's interpretation, Hedgehogs have one grand theory (Marxist, Libertarian, whatever) which they are happy to extend into many domains, relishing its parsimony, and expressing their views with great confidence.

Foxes, on the other hand are skeptical about grand theories, diffident in their forecasts, and ready to adjust their ideas based on actual events.

The aggregate success rate of Foxes is significantly greater, Tetlock found, especially in short-term forecasts.

And Hedgehogs routinely fare worse than Foxes, especially in long-term forecasts. They even fare worse than normal attention-paying dilettantes--- apparently blinded by their extensive expertise and beautiful theory.

Furthermore, Foxes win not only in the accuracy of their predictions but also the accuracy of the likelihood they assign to their predictions--- in this they are closer to the admirable discipline of weather forecasters.

The value of Hedgehogs is that they occasionally get right the farthest-out predictions--- civil war in Yugoslavia, Saddam's invasion of Kuwait, the collapse of the Internet Bubble. But that comes at the cost of a great many wrong far-out predictions--- Dow 36,000, global depression, nuclear attack by developing nations.

Hedgehogs annoy only their political opposition, while Foxes annoy across the political spectrum, in part because the smartest Foxes cherry-pick idea fragments from the whole array of Hedgehogs.

Bottom line... The political expert who bores you with an cloud of "howevers" is probably right about what's going to happen.

The charismatic expert who exudes confidence and has a great story to tell is probably wrong.

And to improve the quality of your own predictions, keep brutally honest score.

Enjoy being wrong, admitting to it and learning from it, as much as you enjoy being right.

Evelyn Rodriguez

Thinking? Did I say anything at all about cognition? As the Buddhists say, the mind is another sense. It's as useful as hearing, or smelling, or seeing, or feeling, or touching, or making love (uh, that's not a sense), but it's just that.

Oh, yes, you are right I was totally caught in a thought of fear. But that was part of writing this post - that one can be RIGHT in the midst of fear, and yet still let go.

The truth is I'm NOT surfing between exhilaration and terror. That's sometimes my interpretation after the fact. Right in the middle, it's simply a sweet ride.

And my! Alas, a story with no rabbits or walruses or cheshire cats, just hedgehogs and foxes?

Evelyn Rodriguez

As for grand theories (or any theory) of the world, what matter they? Swapping your theory for my theory is about as productive as a monkey swinging from one tree branch to another.

"I can tell you, honest friend, what to believe: believe life; it teaches better than book or orator." - Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

Michael Wagner

Wonderful post!

Keep creating,


You are definitely on a roll, Ev. Keep it up.

Thanks for understanding my book parody, as you know I am dead serious about spirituality, ethics, and core values.

I am all for seeking, but not the pampered, lazy "spiritual seeking" of mediocre Americans.

Even the best books (on most any topic, especially mystical and business) have only a few sentences that are worth anything, though we rightfully treasure those precious insights.

Spirituality requires total destruction of all comfort zones and safety nets.

The buzz words of buzz agenting, WOM, "viral marketing", Web 2.0, RIA (rich internet applications), social media, universal content utopia, absolute switched-on user empowerment, etc. are empty references to silly fluff in most cases.

Only a few really know how to implement and stick to such ideas over the long haul.

"We tried blogging, it didn't work", for example.

It takes about 6 years to accomplish anything with a blog, except for those few, inimitable exceptions.

Heather Flanagan

My best marketing technique is to sound absolutely positive about everything I say, and then be totally gracious when I get corrected. Actually, being self-deprocating is a great tool. I am probably an idiot, but that's what I think.

Or is it "self-deficating"?

I have gone through your site its good and excellent. and i found many interesting things to read and to gathered information about it, so here i am linking u relevant site to gain more details.

Fleur Palau

I would appreciate it if someone asked me if they could use the image of my painting on their website.
Please get back to me on this.
Fleur Palau

Fleur Palau

I might add the image is copyright, and if not removed within 24 hours they face legal action.This refers to the girl going down rabbit hole with rabbit.
Fleur Palau

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