Having started and run several companies and a few IT companies in particular, this latest story from Slashdot particularly grabbed my attention. The point of the story, “overconfidence” is applicable is many fields and situations besides that of estimating IT project. First a copy-paste from Slashdot:
“Dan Milstein from Hut 8 Labs has written a lengthy post about why software developers often struggle to estimate the time required to implement their projects. Drawing on lessons from a book called Thinking Fast and Slow by Dan Kahneman, he explains how overconfidence frequently leads to underestimations of a project’s complexity. Unfortunately, the nature of overconfidence makes it tough to compensate. Quoting:
Specifically, in many, many situations, the following three things hold true: 1- ‘Expert’ predictions about some future event are so completely unreliable as to be basically meaningless 2- Nonetheless, the experts in question are extremely confident about the accuracy of their predictions. 3- And, best of all: absolutely nothing seems to be able to diminish the confidence that experts feel. The last one is truly remarkable: even if experts try to honestly face evidence of their own past failures, even if they deeply understand this flaw in human cognition they will still feel a deep sense of confidence in the accuracy of their predictions. As Kahneman explains it, after telling an amazing story about his own failing on this front: ‘The confidence you will experience in your future judgments will not be diminished by what you just read, even if you believe every word.’“
And then quoting Laurens van der Post: “Human beings are perhaps never more frightening than when they are convinced beyond any doubt that they are right.“
And when people are convinced about their conviction, things tend to go south pretty fast. This is seen also during Internet discussions as well as real life discussions. People seek certainty. And the quest for certainty is the real value, not the attainment of it. Quoting Voltaire: “Doubt is not a pleasant condition, but certainty is absurd.“
Thinking back to my childhood, I remember with fondness how I cherished the mysteries and uncertainties of life. I loved how I didn’t know, how I wanted to know, and my quest for new knowledge. But as time went by and I grew up, I unfortunately became more certain, less fondly in awe about life’s mysteries and less inquiring.
I am currently trying to find ways to kill my own certainties, be more open for new views and uncertainties and to bring more awe back into life.