Saturday 15 May 2021 | 14:46 | SYDNEY
Saturday 15 May 2021 | 14:46 | SYDNEY

Today in wrongness


Sam Roggeveen


19 October 2010 10:50

Some excellent reading today about the various ways people get things wrong, the value of making mistakes, and why its important to understand the reasons we make errors. (Mind you, former US Vice President Dan Quayle might quibble with the proposition that it is valuable to make mistakes; his reputation never really recovered from his spelling error, above.)

First, here's an interview with Kathryn Schulz, author of Being Wrong, who nominates five important books about wrongness. One of her choices, Philip Tetlock's Expert Political Judgment, will be familiar to readers of this blog. She also picks Pride and Prejudice:

I mean, think about that famous first line: ‘It is a truth universally acknowledged…’ etc. This is the most tongue-in-cheek opening ever, and it’s not because Austen is poking fun at Mrs Bennet. It’s because she’s poking fun at universally acknowledged truths. In this book, the more universally acknowledged a truth is, the more you can bet it will turn out to be wrong.

The second 'wrongness' reading is from the New York Times, on the disputes among economists over the effect of the US stimulus bill. The article asks: 'Why do economists argue at all' Given that Fed members and economists are looking at the same data, and given the reams of evidence accumulated over decades — not to mention a few centuries of great minds, great theories and thick books that preceded this crisis — why isn’t a right answer self-evident''

Again, regular Interpreter readers will be familiar with this debate, but the article (as well as this reply on one of my favourite blogs, The American Scene; make sure you read the comments thread too) is well worth your time.