Overconfidence

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.

Hugs.

105 thoughts on “Overconfidence

  1. Here’s a great talk that a neuro-scientist gave to employees of Google about the feeling you get when you are CERTAIN.

    Dr. Robert Burton visits Google’s Mountain View, CA headquarters to discuss his book “On Being Certain: Believing You Are Right Even When You’re Not.” This event took place on June 9, 2008, as part of the Authors@Google series.

    In On Being Certain, neurologist Robert Burton challenges the notions of how we think about what we know. He shows that the feeling of certainty we have when we “know” something comes from sources beyond our control and knowledge. In fact, certainty is a mental sensation, rather than evidence of fact. Because this “feeling of knowing” seems like confirmation of knowledge, we tend to think of it as a product of reason. But an increasing body of evidence suggests that feelings such as certainty stem from primitive areas of the brain, and are independent of active, conscious reflection and reasoning. The feeling of knowing happens to us; we cannot make it happen.

    Robert Burton, M.D. graduated from Yale University and University of California at San Francisco medical school, where he also completed his neurology residency. At age 33, he was appointed chief of the Division of Neurology at Mt. Zion-UCSF Hospital, where he subsequently became Associate Chief of the Department of Neurosciences. His non-neurology writing career includes three critically acclaimed novels. He lives in Sausalito, California. Visit his website at http://www.rburton.com.

    1. Al: Because this “feeling of knowing” seems like confirmation of knowledge, we tend to think of it as a product of reason.

      Chris: This is a very good observation. The word tolerance comes to mind for I have to cultivate my tolerance if I am ever going to learn to know and live with what I don’t know.

      1. Chris wrote: This is a very good observation. The word tolerance comes to mind for I have to cultivate my tolerance if I am ever going to learn to know and live with what I don’t know.

        I agree.

        Tolerance for Uncertainty is probably the real route to Clear and OT, and probably to Total Freedom Itself.

        Alanzo

      2. I agree, maybe I´m going over the top on this one, but, for me, certainty is akin to solidity, attachment, fixedness and slavery.

        1. Rafael: ” . . . maybe I´m going over the top on this one . . . ”

          Chris: Nope. I am with you on this one brother. Certainty is truly one of the counterintuitive words that I find myself living with, trying to emulate, striving for. Then I take another look at how I get things done. Certainly not by making clay pots with sledge hammers but with soft hands gently molding and coaxing the clay into shape. And then understanding thoroughly that the world is a plastic place and is morphing whether or not I agree. Like licking a melting ice cream cone. I have to stay busy getting the drips all the while the ice cream is disappearing! Let the ice cream drip or tongue too cold? A problem. Living well is a ballet of just the right amount of confidence.

          Certainty is overconfidently overrated, I am sure of it! hahaha

          1. Certainty is a Thought Stopper.

            Achieve “certainty” and all progress halts right there.

  2. Gier

    Some man of great wisdom said or was quoted in Proverbs a few thousand yrs ago:

    Proverbs 16:18 Pride goeth before destruction, and an haughty spirit before a fall.

    The same goes for arrogance and overconfidence. It is all the same package.

    Dio

  3. An empty canvas can be painted with anything you want to paint on.

    Socrates was wise enough to know that he didn’t know anything 😛

    1. Wow. That is very interesting. I’m going to have to get that one.

      Speaking of Behavioral Economists – have you ever heard of Daniel Ariely?

      This is a good one on what motivates us.

    1. In Physic as well in Philosophy it is between cause and effect.
      You are cause and at the same time effect.

  4. Geir
    You have already written about it in many ways. Just some:
    Just
    No PR.
    No sales.
    Stop-notdo-notresist.
    Chill.
    Hugging.
    They are all mindless, egoless no-methods. Direct knowing-not-knowing, direct certain-uncertain…..one dynamics…one flow.

  5. Ouch. This one hit home 🙂

    I’m in IT, an expert in my field. I make time predictions constantly and I am always wrong. So is every one else in the general area…

    I’m not so sure about other fields, but I do know where most of the problem comes from in IT (I have studied this extensively): we are usually spot on in predicting how long it will take to write the code. It’s the research, investigation, co-ordinating with others, communicating intent, release process, verification, testing, finding bugs and fixing bugs part that we are absolutely hopeless at. Brooks wrote about this in the late 60s in The Mythical Man-Month and everything he wrote then remains unsolved today!

    My manager has learned from hard experience how to deal with time estimates:

    Whatever Alan says about how long it will take, times that by PI. That’s the real answer. [He, errr, has yet to be shown to be wrong and he’s been doing that for 3 years].

    Alan

    1. Alan,

      A study done at Cornell would back you up. It found that incompetent people tend to over-estimate their own abilities while experts, in a variety of fields, tended to over-estimate the other people they had to rely on to get their jobs done. It’s called the Dunning-Kruger effect.

      Americans though may be particularly susceptible to over-confidence. Another study found that 93% of Americans consider themselves to be better than the median. It’s been nick-named the Lake Wobegon effect, for Garrison Keillor’s mythical town where “all the children are above average”.

      Yes, I’m American, and I consider myself above average. But then, I consider you and all of the posters on this blog to be above average, too.

      1. Aeolus,

        🙂

        I had an interesting conversation at work this week – a manager (usually a very sensible person) wanted to know how she could train her technical team to be better skilled. I told her two things:

        1. Let them make mistakes, how else would they ever learn anything?
        2. Don’t aim any higher than average.

        #1 was well received, she did the whole BD, VGIs and had an Aha! moment.
        #2 was met with shock, horror and god only knows what else. I think she must have “average” confused with “mediocre”.

        There’s nothing wrong with being average. Average is still in the top half!

        Lately I’ve become convinced that most people grossly over-estimate their abilities because doing that creates fuzzy-feel-good checmicals in their brain, and they become addicted to those chemicals. Observation and reason don’t even begin to feature in their thinking.

        1. Splog: Lately I’ve become convinced that most people grossly over-estimate their abilities because doing that creates fuzzy-feel-good checmicals in their brain, and they become addicted to those chemicals. Observation and reason don’t even begin to feature in their thinking.

          Chris: Astute, er, uh, I mean “above average!”

        2. Splog wrote:

          Lately I’ve become convinced that most people grossly over-estimate their abilities because doing that creates fuzzy-feel-good chemicals in their brain, and they become addicted to those chemicals. Observation and reason don’t even begin to feature in their thinking.

          I call the squirt of feel-good chemicals into the brain “the Spooge Factor”. The spooge factor has a huge influence on all kinds of thinking. When the Spooge Factor is allowed into too many calculations, catastrophe usually results.

          But we’re a bunch of spooge monkeys.

          So whaddya gonna do?

          Alanzo

          1. “But we’re a bunch of spooge monkeys.”

            Sppoge monkeys? Oooooo, I like that one. I think I will steal it for later use.

            So Spooge would be the stuff that keeps me logged into the Internets until 3am arguing with people I never met?

            Or why I have a workshop full of widgets with power plugs that I never use?

            Or why I *still* have every book I ever bought and will not throw them away, not even my Latin textbook from first year in high-school?

            Or, and wait for this one, why I have SIX TERRABYTES of TV shows I will never watch all stored on a server in my study (the kids might watch them one day, maybe even the Twilight stuff…)

            Spooge. That’s the reason for all that weirdness in my life 🙂

            1. Splog wrote:

              Spooge monkeys? Oooooo, I like that one. I think I will steal it for later use.

              Too late!

              I’ve already put it into a play I am writing for a class!

              NATURE SHOW NARRATOR
              The Spooge Monkey of Northern France suffers from repeated squirts of feel-good brain chemicals during rutting season. The Spooge Monkey often becomes fixated upon the object of its desire, and darts out into traffic, causing accidents in his aroused and distracted state…

              It’s copyrighted!

              Alanzo

      2. Aeolius: Americans though may be particularly susceptible to over-confidence.

        Chris: It is our culture. It is demanded of us from birth, or it used to be. Americans using this mechanism of nobody likes a loser, Americans have delivered on this many times such as the world wars and space. But in present time, we may tend to sit on our laurels and say as a group, “See what we did?”

        In keeping with the OP, I see the most looming problem in our culture today as an overconfidence in our military might which gives a sense of overconfidence similar to that of the NAZIs after their early military successes in Europe. America seems to be under the thumb and controlled by unseen bosses who use America’s military strength to enforce economic activity around the world. I say this for two reasons, neither of them particularly informed. One is that neither I nor anyone I know has any say in the direction we point our military. Though our government pontificates about freedoms, it doesn’t seem to police fairly around the world unless there is an economic reason, all the while reducing personal liberty at home.

        1. The U.S. military is not the real problem. They at least swear to upholding the constitution and individual human rights and they are held accountable for their actions under civil and military law. This is not true of private military companies, which are now a BOOMING & highly profitable big business, a growing business sector. Read the article below — I think you will find your hair standing on end.

          http://www.globalresearch.ca/the-privatization-of-war-mercenaries-private-military-and-security-companies-pmsc/21826

          You can also look up private military companies on wikipedia.

          1. Private military companies? If you speak about soldiers, you can call them mercenaries. Army is a governmental institution, there can be nothing private there. Agree with you, at least US Army represents a country promoting democracy and human rights. It’s not Russian or Chinese.

            1. Yes, we are talking about mercenaries. Their employers prefer to call them private military company employees, it sounds so much better than killers for hire to the highest bidder.

        2. Chris: Though our government pontificates about freedoms, it doesn’t seem to police fairly around the world unless there is an economic reason, all the while reducing personal liberty at home.

          +1

        3. Chris,

          If you haven’t already, I recommend reading The Shock Doctrine by Naomi Klein. She goes into the fine details of how and why we meddle in the affairs of other countries for the financial benefit of a select few. Spoiler alert – Democracy has nuttin to do with it other than a cover story.

          1. Or you can watch her video here:

            I assure you, you will come away with a very different understanding of the news and how world events are presented.

  6. There seems to be some false belief….
    It’s true that what one creates/sees/ experiences is the same. It is also true that what one creates one can experience. But all this is true only for one’s mind, for one’s universe.
    There IS EXPERIENCE, CREATION, CERTAINTY, CHOICE…when ‘one’, ‘the person’,
    the ‘mind’, the ‘ego’….are not there…..then, no word for that
    That’s the AWE

  7. ‘Human beings are perhaps never more frightening than when they are convinced beyond any doubt that they are right’.
    A wonderful bullshit! Who creates/says the ‘frightening’? Who is it true for?

    Why cannot be another be convinced in one’s own universe that one is right?
    When a child is drawing a circle and says it’s an apple, will I say that this is not so?

  8. Quotes can be used as POINTERS. When I agree to any, it’s because of two reasons: 1. I am lazy in observation. 2. it is based on my past evaluations, past conclusions. Now I am “happy” that someone also says that.

  9. I am absolutely certain that the brain autoconfigures feedback loops to attain the greatest biological harmony. These feedback loops provide maximum harmony when there is not the chaos of indecision. Therefore, circumstances of certainty provide the maximum reinforcing harmonious feedback and drive us in the direction of being certain about our thoughts and decisions.

    This is simply a biological action. It has nothing to do with any spiritual quality. I am certain about that.

    Therefore I am absolutely wrong.

  10. Quoting Voltaire: “Doubt is not a pleasant condition, but certainty is absurd.“ This reminds me of Roosevelt’s : “Only thing we have to fear is fear itself”.
    …liked the article very much.

    1. ‘Only thing we have to fear is fear itself’ – oh, yes, another bullshit.
      Which means I am creating fear for the sake of avoiding fear.
      Glad you are here, dragos!

    2. dragos
      You give more life a day than there is truth in a hundred quotes! Not that they are
      not useful for ‘thinking with’, to ‘modify one’s views’ but this is their only value.

  11. Geir
    A little reminder. You said to Vin: you have opinion, I have truth.
    Not devaluating any persons you quoted but how many of them could say that?
    Your purpose triangle – how many desired, valued and became aware of the purpose of life, of basic purpose?

  12. I only have one real certainty and it’s that this body is going to cease. All else is up for grabs, so to speak. I also have certainty, at least I think so, is that I’m not alone.

      1. MT: ‘this body is going to cease’ – true. But it matters when. The kids, the young people need us, more than ever. I see it day by day.

        Of course it’s nice to help others and and makes life nice everyday when one is aware.
        I don’t think it matters when, unless one is doing one’s self in. We don’t really know when it will be, but can be aware of good health, complete projects and be ready when ever it is for that certainty. Don’t you think? When you get older or lose someone close you have more reality, certainty and live accordingly, putting the small stuff in proper place.
        Good that you are teaching the young in classes and being worthwhile to them, like many others teachers of youth. I assume that you know your place and what you are doing. Keep up the good work with them. 🙂

        1. dee
          Yes. Life here on this Planet is a gift. No matter what spiritual experiences I have had or will have at whatever consciousness levels, this life here is unique. I could
          experience giving birth to two kids…they chose me as their mother in this lifetime. I am responsible for returning the trust they put in me. I can love and be loved in a human, not only in a cosmic way, spiritually. I can experience human emotions….I can watch nature every day in its change. We can communicate on this blog….lots of, lots of miracles, everchanging possibilities.

          1. MT: lots of, lots of miracles, everchanging possibilities.

            Yes, life can be so beautiful and fun too! 🙂

  13. Geir
    You know, my other side is the Kill Bill style. That’s to the ego, the false self, to those parts which you had to kill on the way to OT8, which you were not. If any left or re-created, here it goes. Not that you don’t know it.
    You say:
    I now know who I am not and now I want to know who I am.
    WHO I am. Do you want to create any identity? Do it. Do you want to create any thought? Do it. But don’t get lost in them and say afterwards that you want to find
    ways to kill your certainties. You were the one who created them, so only you know how you did it – in short, you know the know-how, the way.
    Let me remind you that you also said that one had the key to one’s universe.
    Geir – listening to yourself may be of value too!

      1. Good answer! It wasn’t meant for the mind which wants to understand….
        No more killing of certainties then….you are in pretty good shape….
        Can’t wait to see the next post from that You….

    1. Valkov….in-tune…a very good song, thanks. I listened to it a long time ago and I liked it then. This time, listening to it, it sounds completely new. I hear it for the first time for what it is about.

      1. MT I am glad you liked the song! It is from the album “Graceland” by Paul Simon. It is all done by African musicians. He wrote the lyrics, then set them to traditional African melodies and harmonies. A few are set to American music derived from African roots, eg New Orleans jazz.

        Of course what prompted me to post it here is it has that guy’s name in it…. 🙂

        Here’s another one I posted on Marty’s blog recently:

        1. Valkov
          Love your big heart!
          Yeah, the guy’s name in it, I guessed so…
          I have never heard this song, thanks for putting it here, I like it very much! I will listen to other songs in the ‘Graceland’ album. Interestingly, it’s a very telling title…

          1. Thanks MT, my heart is no match for yours!

            ‘Graceland’ is also the name of another great song from that album; it is also the name of Elvis Presley’s estate and museum in Memphis Tennessee where he died. According to Wikipedia over 600,000 people visit there every year. He was born in Mississippi. In the 1950s he was instrumental in popularizing music with African-American roots.

            The Graceland album was inspired by the popular music of the South African townships, contrary to what I said earlier about “traditional” music.

            Here’s a short one of which there is also a video on Youtube from the African concert in 1987 which is well worth listening to. But this version with Linda Ronstadt is excellent too.

  14. Geir
    ‘ I loved how I didn’t know, how I wanted to know and my quest for new knowledge’.

    There lie the two keys to the route to solidity: ‘wanted’ (desire), knowledge (value).
    Once again your Purpose Triangle. Gathering more and more information, experience during the quest, it’s also a lot of effort and energy…if one was truely observing, inspecting what one was studying, that is one was Pure Awareness during the process, one would never become ‘solid’.

    I used to read all my life up to two years ago. Then, it spontaneously stopped. It doesn’t mean that I cannot or sometimes don’t read, mainly on the Net. But there is no trace of any desire left to find any ‘knowingness’, any ‘info’ anywhere else than
    myself…and in live talk with others, or reading your blog, here.

    You want to not know….put down the books. At least try it for a while. Sit down and
    do self-enquiery…that is ask yourself a question…the field of consciousness is going to give you the answer. It can be surprising sometimes, as you will know things without ever studying them.

    Also, before six you couldn’t read. You played, experimented. Do that.
    Also, if someone tells you to do a new thing and your mind says no, try it anyway.
    Be-observe and do, for a while. In Zen, there is simple ‘walking’. Walk, while
    being aware. Like Richard Gere in Pretty Woman took off his shoes and walked on the grass…
    Do what your intuition/heart tells you and don’t listen to/follow the next thought.
    Aliveness is – live communication with your body, with people around you, here on
    the blog, with nature….everything, except thinking about…

  15. receptivity, sensitivity….Adya’s words are just pointers…when he stops speaking and
    your mind is empty, you can feel a kind of true, natural spaciousness

  16. There is a kind of pure, fine energy ‘pouring down’. It is not created – it is just there.
    One cannot entirely know how ‘solid’ one is until one perceives it…it doesn’t matter
    that one has ‘thoughts’, whatever….its simple ‘power’ is so huge, that it can factually
    revitalize the body, kind of ‘melt’ thoughts….it’s not the ‘god particle’…it’s a flow. One
    can experience it in the presence of some persons…or, doing True Meditation.

    1. Marianne: “Geir, Where are you? Why don’t you comment or write a post?”

      If he’s anything like me, he’s paying attention to his kids and the internets come in second place 🙂

      I haven’t posted much in the last month – my 16 year old now lives with me so I’ve been busy with school enrollments, changing work schedules, buying furniture and all that Dad stuff. I’m not ignoring you all, there’s just this other real live person in the room, someone I had a hand in creating 🙂

      By the way, do any of you realize how much noise 16 year old boys with electric guitar collections can make???!!!!???? Hint: They can make a lot of noise for a long time!

      Alan

        1. GI
          How is that quote? Tame birds talk about flying and free birds fly? This is one I like!
          HaHa…free birds nevertheless can ‘chirp’ while flying…and you are doing it fine! Love the blog! It’s more than OK that you are ‘bringing more awe back into life’.

      1. Really it’s been nice to accomplish things that were neglected for over a year. My office is like brand new, my garden blooming, getting out to other activities, all since I’ve been weening myself from blog activities. Also concentrating on my new F-It therapy and making changes and feeing just great. I will be happy to comment and read again when an interesting subject comes up, so hopefully, see y’all soon. 🙂
        Every new day has a wonderful gift, eh?

            1. Chris: To understand or to not understand, that is the question. 🙂

              D: Still laughing – good question.
              I’m not understanding this OP anymore, glad to see Isene has a new one.

        1. dee
          I am so happy for you! Great, you are doing just great!
          As for me, I am in personal contact with a lot of people during the day. I do lots
          of activities. I am not on Facebook, Twitter etc. only on this blog which I find very high quality. Because what Geir puts here and because I have been learning a lot
          from our exchanges which I couldn’t have learnt in another way.
          My ‘mind’ has been going through a ‘process’ during these couple of months…ME is
          fascinated by it!

          1. MY: My ‘mind’ has been going through a ‘process’ during these couple of months…ME is fascinated by it!

            D: Imagine how much more fascination you could have by expanding, looking at other blogs and viewpoints! Have you ever thought of starting your own blog?

          2. MT: My ‘mind’ has been going through a ‘process’ during these couple of months…ME is fascinated by it!

            D: Imagine how much more fascination you could have by expanding, looking at other blogs and viewpoints! Have you ever thought of starting your own blog?

        1. It was half a joke 🙂 Aqua and Ace of Base were teenagers favourites pop bands in the early ’90s. The same like Spice Girls in the late ’90s. Not my age group, I was born in 1972. I was born with ABBA 🙂

          1. MT, here are a couple of hits by Ace of Base. They were a popular Swedish eye-and-ear candy dance band for awhile who had some catchy radio hits. Sweden also had a band called ABBA that was popular in other countries. They also sang and recorded in English, as Ace of Base did.

            1. Valkov, thanks! I remember now! I used to do dancing aerobics to some of these songs. I still like this type of music. I used to listen to ABBA too. I adore ! music.
              Please put here your favourites from time to time. Also, what interests you the most
              these days? I mean, in life. In ‘spirituality’. In philosophy or science….

    1. MT, perhaps you would like Alanis Morissette? In this song in which she sings “Thank You India”,she is crediting Meditation for improving her life. I have always liked her great voice and sincerity.

  17. Wow! I was writing my answer in which I was asking you to put some of your favourites here! And you were ahead of me, putting some here. You are amazing!!
    I am going to listen to them right after this. Thanks!

  18. Valkov – Wonderful choices. Now one for you. This has always made me think of the past, the present and what shall be…

  19. Two years ago I decided to just sit down and get ‘enlightened’. No guidance, just me. Also, went on the Net to see who are the living ‘enlightened’ ones. Found some, he was among them. The first time I ‘listened’ to him I knew – that’s it. It was the ‘Energy of a free being’. The ‘energy’ came through instantly. A couple of weeks later I was sitting on a bus to London.’Awakening’ happened there. Came home – meditated the way it is in True meditation. Then meditation spontaneously stopped. I listened to lots of lots of his ‘talks’. Never have met him – perhaps I will. Yes, he lives in California. Did you listen to any of his ‘talks’?

    1. I find it nice that you are out of SCN, don’t hate SCN, and yet do something else.

      Can you explain to me briefly what true meditation is?

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