Here’s the transcript of my talk to Nudgestock which was held a few weeks ago. I was hoping to do it in London where it’s normally held, but in the world of COVID it migrated online and acquired for itself an enormous audience. I was told that 20,000 people watched my session and something like 130,000 tuned in for some period of the 12 hours. It was a very high standard of presentations. The video should start at my presentation, but if there’s any issue, it starts at 02:21:44
Sam: Right now I’m really excited to introduce Nicholas Gruen who’s the CEO of Latera Economics. Nicholas will be sharing how the coronavirus exposed the necessity for adaptive thinking for a focus on effectiveness and not just efficiency – often a pragmatic perspective of where the practical might be the best response until proven dangerous. Nicholas will lead us today on his keynote Thinking: Keep It Adaptive Stupid. This will be a great crescendo from Chiara to Jason to Nicholas Gruen. Welcome to Nudgestock, Nicholas.
Nicholas: Thanks very much, Sam. Let’s get straight to it. This slide emphasises something I think many people don’t appreciate: Although they might think that the expertise that they’ve learned at university is about 80% of their job and 20% of it is adapting it to circumstances and executing. I’d suggest it’s the other way around.
Here are some words from Nassim Nicholas Taleb and Yaneer Bar-Yam. You’re familiar, I expect with Taleb, the author of the Black Swan. Yaneer Bar-Yam is a pioneer of complexity science. I quote:
The government relied at all stages on epidemiological models that were designed to show us roughly what happens given pre-selected parameters and choices.
What could possibly be wrong with that? Something that was right about it was that it did enable some people with the mantle of science to say this is serious. We could have an awful lot of deaths from this coronavirus. We really need to start taking it more seriously.
But there’s something else going on that I want to draw your attention to. If you like you can think of this idea of a hierarchy of knowledge. There you’ve got a particular hierarchy of sciences: the harder they are, the less ambiguous they are, in some ways the less complex they are, the higher they are on the hierarchy.
The great temptation there is the temptation to what I call “the God’s eye view”. Here’s another God’s eye view from the Middle Ages. One of the things that happens here is that the higher on that hierarchy you get, the more status we give you. The more, that is, we treat you like God. But we are not gods. Here’s a non-God—I’m sure he’s a God in a film world, but here’s somebody, a human being, who’s trying to get a God’s eye view and sometimes you just end up looking ridiculous. Continue reading