Don’t believe anyone who knows what to do

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I don’t believe anyone who knows for sure what to do. I don’t mean “We should build an electric car”. That’s vision. I mean “We can cover the roof with solar cells”. That’s hubris. There only one way to know if that is practicable.

That’s me up until about ten years ago. I was so sure I knew the answers. I’ve been wrong enough times to learn a little humility, but more importantly I’ve learned that that’s just not how the world works. The future is unknowable. Every real-world system is a complex system. Nothing is predictable. Even if it has worked 99 times before that says nothing certain about next time. We don’t know until we do something. And if it’s something novel, all bets are off until we test against reality.

When somebody says they know how to do something, the correct response is “that’s an interesting hypothesis. What’s the smallest safest experiment we could do to validate that?”

People get frustrated with “I don’t know” but it’s the most honest answer there is.

The trick is to have some good ideas on ways to find out as quickly, cheaply, and safely as possible. What’s the best way? I don’t know. Let’s try a few and see what works, right here, right now.