The Case for Blunders by Freeman Dyson | The New York Review of Books

The inventor of a brilliant idea cannot tell whether it is right or wrong. Livio quotes the psychologist David Kahneman describing how theories are born: “We can’t live in a state of perpetual doubt, so we make up the best story possible and we live as if the story were true.” A theory that began as a wild guess ends as a firm belief. Humans need beliefs in order to live, and great scientists are no exception. Great scientists produce right theories and wrong theories, and believe in them with equal conviction.

Theories are guideposts for action but you also have to be willing to be wrong since all life is an experiment anyway.

Productivity & Work

People that “get it”

Everyone gets it from a macro perspective. How could you not?

But have you seen the guts of how it works? Have you actually played with it? Do you really understand the ins and outs?

I don’t get it when people say they get it. You don’t get it. What you get is the initial idea, the shell of the concept, not what’s on the inside, plus all the intricate work involved.

People that get it are excusing themselves from doing the work and discovering what it all really means.

How do you get something that you don’t even use? Getting it and doing the work are two separate activities. You may get basketball but when it comes to game time can you actually play?

So get this: Next time you want to say that you get something, what you’re really saying is that you’ve got work to do. And by the way, no one, even experts, ever truly get it either. The idea that you mastered something is a merely an admission that you’re done improving.

Getting it is non-actionable. What you really need to do is get in it and see what it’s all about.


Work over theories

Theories prove nothing. Until theories get tested, they’re just talk.

People want concrete examples. Examples provide firepower to an argument, proving that you’ve at least experimented.

Having some data is better than having none at all. Data gathering is the means to embrace failure. Enough wrong answers eventually lead to right ones.

What are some things you think are true or false but haven’t been tested? Life is a giant test lab. You’ll never know unless you try.