Not Infallible

I’ve been reading the Walter Isaacson biography of Benjamin Franklin which is quite insightful both in terms of the genius of the man himself, and the historical perspective. One trait he had which I think I also share is a healthy appreciation of my own and everyone else’s fallibilities.

In my world view the human body and mind are imperfect. We have aches and pains, need glasses, use hearing aids, suffer from kidney stones and other benign ailments. Our senses can trick us, optical illusions being a obvious example, colour blindness, numbness (or anaesthetics) deaden our sense of touch, hot and cold perception can be tricked. Inside our minds the fallibilities are numerous and complex: recall of memories is never exact (yet we are often adamant of their accuracy) and we are victims of a litany of cognitive biases that sway us from rational thought.

With these imperfections in mind, I think it is healthy of have a slight distrust in our own opinions, and likewise to understand that everyone else is prone to the same human fallibilities too.

Extending that concept. Everything in the world that is not derived from the laws of physics: law, business, art, finance, parks, music, government, building design, computer programs etc. are built on the pillars of ideas that come from human minds. All those things are also fallible in similar ways.  Government legislation is crafted by people with limited perspectives and therefore may have honestly unintentional and unforeseen consequences. It’s not necessarily the case that corruption or conspiracy is any more to blame than simple ignorance or under-appreciation of the balance of winners/losers for any given change that is made. However it is also worth considering that our opinion of the legislation may be based on incomplete perspective.

The world is complex, trying to simplify it can be one of those cognitive biases we all exhibit.  I have accepted that my human mind has limits to the level of complexity it can comprehend, and that even within my domain of expertise – computer programming – what is ‘right’ is almost always just a matter of opinion.