A resurrection from 2009, as we’re on holiday again. Raffle will be drawn next week.

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Discussion (22)¬

  1. botanist says:

    10 years ago, and it’s still a brilliant observation on our current sutuation here in the UK.

  2. Kilby says:

    I agree with the botanist. Written in 2009, but even more appropriate now that ignorance has been made a prerequisite for leadership.

  3. Luxi Turna says:

    Conversely, the D-K experiment also showed that smart people are less certain that their conclusions are correct.

    I do astrophysics, but all told, I understand the universe about as well as my cat. He probably knows more because he smiles all the time.

  4. Tinkling Think says:

    Way back in the 1930’s to 1950’s SF Writers often made the observation that it was quite impossible for any system to correctly and accurately evaluate itself. They were sometimes comparing electronic intelligences to those of living beings but the principle applies to all systems.

    One can not “know oneself” as modelling your mind takes a system at least as complex as the mind being modelled. One can derive approximate, simplified models of the mind, your own or some other but those are like weather models, they work for many uses in many situations but they are not precise and perfect.

    The smartest among us know this. They know they can’t really know themselves, can’t really understand themselves because their map of themselves must be smaller, more crude and less intricate than the mind creating it. That is just physics: the map can’t be bigger than the paper it’s written on; or, in the world of electronics and chemical soups, the map can’t be as finely grained and as complicated as the substrate it is built on.

    Dunning-Kruger is merely an expression of this truth. It is nothing new. The truth has been known since the start of City Culture. Intelligent systems can never correctly measure their own abilities, judge their own competences, save in a vague and inaccurate way.

    Your cat can often predict, even modify, your behaviour but it has no chance of understanding it. Even the least of human minds is far too finely grained, too complex and too large to fit inside that of any lesser critter. Humanoids have been proving this since they first hunted antelopes with rocks and thigh-bones.

    All sentients are incompetent at judging themselves, the problem with the dumb ones is they over-estimate their own powers while those who are smarter tend to under-estimate them. This makes the thickies more sure of their ill-formed, ill-informed, ill-educated woo-woo-ery than the clever guys can ever be of their skilled, experienced, educated expertise.

    So the loud-but-witless outshout the wise but uncertain.

    And so we get fat, grubby, witless, petulant, childish, bald politicians with hideous comb-overs glued in place instead of statesmen.

    And we get religions no one would ever take seriously were they sold as SF or Fantasy contributing to our legislative processes because reason and knowledge are shouted down.

    It’s a fact of life and there is probably no fixing it.

    Errrmmm … when I said “no system”, I was, of course, excluding myself. I can not only correctly, precisely and accurately model and map my mind and self, I can also map the superior system that does the mapping, map the yet more superior system that maps that system and accurately judge the competence of me, myself and “I”, whatever that is. ‘Cos I’m clever.

    D-K didn’t include me in their research.

  5. Tinkling Think says:

    Luxi, there is a “hunting” technique useful for driving sheep. One picks up a handful of small stones and stands at a fence surrounding a field full of sheep. The sheep, seeing a dangerous predator – or an annoyance – will casually drift away until the form a crowd that leaves a semi-circle of space between the hunter and the flock. Choosing one that is randomly pointing its head in one’s general direction, one throws a stone at its bum. The stone should be large enough for the impact to be felt through the sheepskin coat [it would be nice to be able to do this just after shearing time but that takes planning and this is a lazy-man’s technique for getting dinner] but not large enough to irritate unduly.

    On being tapped on the bum, the chosen critter will jump, mutter something sheepish and amble some steps forwards, towards the hunter. This can be repeated until the sheep is well within grabbing range; or, if one is merely playing, within head-scratching range.

    Sheep are not one of Nature’s most powerful thinkers and they are quite accustomed to seeing and being close to humans so this lazy huntsman trick may not work with gazelles or tigers nor any other creature who is more suspicious of humans but it certainly will with ovines.

    The point behind this is that the sheep has no idea that the human has a nefarious plan, it can not map the humans intentions, it is too dumb to think of running away. It is, indeed, highly unlikely to ever grasp any connection between its sore bum and the hunter.

    A cat would, a dog might if it is larger and smarter than a hand-baggy rat-dog and any chimp would simply chuck rocks back at the human but sheep either don’t have or rarely use the carrying capacity to model new human behaviours.

    Your cat has a grasp of physics, it knows about hard floors in combination with gravity resulting in pain and it can calculate some trajectories and even predict the behaviour of prey and human pseudo-parent but it can never understand the universe, nor, indeed, could it ever try. Cats don’t need to. The question would not occur to them.

    Nor can your cat understand you. Predict you, yes, modify you, yes, a little, but a cat has less possibility of understanding you than a Tangerine Trumpet has of understanding your astrophysics.

    Okay, so that’s not fair and is deeply insulting.

    The cat has far more of a chance of understanding some astrophysics than the Trumpet but it is still a very, very tiny one.

  6. Jan Witkowski says:

    one of the best ever!

  7. Every time you post a resurrection I’m tempted to go back into the archives and revisit you past brilliance.
    I often describe myself as “Where the Dunning-Kruger effect meets the Imposter Syndrome.” Which pretty much sums up my life and career.
    Thanks for this one. I needed it today.

  8. Federico Bär says:

    Interesting limits of “know thyself”.
    Tinkling Think’s statement:
    _— the map can’t be bigger than the paper it’s written on—_
    reminds me of the man who. jokingly, complained that he seemed to be unable to draw a natural-sized globe.

  9. Troubleshooter says:

    How ironic. The Dunning-Kruger effect frustrates two Dunning-Kruger examples from recognizing that they are examples.

  10. Son of Glenner says:

    Referring back to the previous strip, I noticed in today’s news that Norwich Cathedral has installed a large helter-skelter in its nave.

    What next? Roundabouts? Ferris Wheels? Swingboats? “Dodgems” would be punningly appropriate, given theologians’ skills at evading awkward questions.

  11. Someone says:

    Modern politics and religion in a nutshell. They all suffer from this, some more than others, and everyone else suffers as a result.

  12. Paul Seed says:

    Being able to change your beliefs when faced with new evidence is almost the definition of science. Being unable to do so explains why religions are still trying to apply moral ideas from the bronze age and the iron age to modern problems.

  13. Len says:

    Hi Luxi,
    Your cat smiles because he gets the joke.

  14. Jesus H. Iscariot, Esq. says:

    Being so stupid you don’t know you are stupid.

    CNN just had a clip with a guy in a MAGA hat commenting on the Democrats’ proposal for reparations for slavery.

    He was in favour of that. Then he said that in 1865 a slave cost about the same as a tractor does today. So with interest, the descendants of slave owners who had their property confiscated should be receiving millions in compensation. He didn’t seem to be making a joke…

  15. Tinkling Think says:

    Someone, your observation on modern politics and politicians is why no dictator should kill nor exile dissenters. I know they all do, disagreeing with The Boss is always treated as disloyalty verging on treason but it should be taken as a deep and true compliment. It signifies that the dissenters feel safe enough to express a contrary opinion, which is rare in human societies.

    Just as a business should cultivate the unhappy customers, so they can learn from their errors and flaws to improve on their performance, so should politicians cultivate the annoying bastards who think the politicians could be wrong, mistaken, ill-informed or plain stupid. They don’t, not often enough but they should.

    Surrounding yourself with sycophantic yes-men may be a fine way of fluffing up your ego but it is a piss-poor way to run a country.

    Everyone, save those in charge of nations and organisations and churches, seems to understand this.

    Even Medieval Yurpeen kings had their court jesters to try to help to keep them sort of close to the bounds or reason and sanity.

  16. M27Holts says:

    Try to explain to nimby fracking protesters that physics explains why you cant get the same effect of two earth crust plates moving in different directions by squirting water into rocks to release shale gas….

  17. Tinkling Think says:

    M27Holts, plate-shifting is not the only natural, nor unnatural, method of generating shaky grounds.

    One other way is to dissolve away a volume of underfloor supports then have a public omnibus run over the now fragile roofing. True, those subsidence events are mostly localised and tiny but huge ones, such as the collapse of a super-volcanic caldera when a magma pool retreats, can cause rather extensive quiverings. Witness Yellowstone just after it empties for a very live demonstration of this, we’re told this is rather imminent and will be “fun” … for certain weird and strange meanings of the term.

    The there are, often put into the class of “un”natural though nothing is more natural than human tech as any crow using a stick to dig out grubs will show, always sub-floor experiments using trans-uranic element powered devices. These can create seismic events detectable by Universities planet-wide. It is one way governments verify non-cheating by other governments.

    Rock is hard and often fairly incompressible. Using hot, pressurised water to sup juices out of it may cause rumblings of discontent and ill-humour. It is not hard to see that forcing something into settled rocks is not the most innocuous of moves. Indeed, using wedges has been a mining technique all over the planet for millennia; all the waters are doing is imitating the wooden and metal inclined planes of yesteryears.

    Simple physics, M27Holts. If you shove a spoon into a jelly, it quakes.

    Once one grasps this idea, all that matters is the degree of destruction the squirting will cause. That is a matter for the geophysicists to calculate [the Parliaments to legislate and the companies to deny] and the locals to experience.

    Fracking cause vibrations. All mining causes vibrations. The question is magnitude.

    It is also a truism that all vibrations in the solid earth are “the same effect” no matter their magnitude nor cause. Those “nimby’s” you are so contemptuous of are correct in principle, their only flaw is being innumerate. That is something the companies and legislatures should kindly, carefully and slowly repair with quiet, reasoned discussion not mass arrests and violence.

    It took a while but most people, even the superior, elite, “expert” doctors and surgeons, now accept that antibiotics, washing your hands and anaesthetics are mainly good ideas and not deeply satanic evils waiting in the wings to steal your souls and jobs. [It does help, though, when someone slightly famous comes out with a witticism such as We are having the baby. We will have the ether.” More so if she has the power to make it stick.]

    With patience stem cells, nuclear power, orbital photovoltaic power plants, solar cells built into the rooves and sides of all new construction and possibly even fracking could – if shown to be safe – similarly become acceptable to reasonable, educated people.

    Even NIMBY’s.

    It might help, though, if oils were discovered in rocks under the floors of Westmonster, some palaces and a few large country house and their occupants welcomed the frackers. Or if barrels of utterly safe radioactive wastes were happily stored under the bars and cafés of Parliament.

    Poor, weak, powerless citizen protesters aren’t the only “NIMBY’s”. It is just that the wealthy and powerful get their way quietly, using tax concessions and favourable legislation.

    Subjects of The Crown can’t use those methods.

  18. Tinkling Think says:

    In my previous: Para 3″ “Then there are …”.

    Para 2: it may read better were there a full stop before the ” … we’re told …” and a capital “W”.

    There may be other improvements possible, such as complete elision of the entire post.

  19. Tinkling Think says:

    The largest question in the cosmos, the question all living beings must find an answer to, the question everyone is discussing in the withdrawing rooms of the intelligentsia and the chatterati, the question above all questions that defines Life, Existence and The meaning Of It All is:

    Why don’t J&M ever feed that pigeon?

    One of them’s a fisher of men and can transmute elements and create fiat foods from vacuum energies [a very useful trick of a Sunday when the chippie is shut] and the other has djinn at his command so it’s not exactly going to cost them a lot.

    Poor little, hungry Columbidaean.

  20. Tinkling Think says:


    That didn’t work.

    Let us try once more ….

    This pigeon.

    Oh. Okay. The one at https://www.jesusandmo.net/comic/core/ and other pages.

    Right. Okay. That works. Sort of.

  21. Tinkling Think says:

    I know it’s a little déclassé to promote the up-welling mire that is “social media” but this page may promote discussions among the locals at the C&B.

    Or not, as everyone but me seems to be on holiday. Unless the SSL is broken again?

    One discussion point might be the differences between “their”, “there” and “they’re”. Unless that equine is deceased and has been thrashed overmuchly?

  22. Son of Glenner says:

    Tinkling Think: Anywun who has completed there edication passed Primery Sixt shood kno the difrances bitween theze wurds unless their reely styupid.


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