Discover more from Unknown Unknowns
🤯Unknown Unknowns #40 - Getting Comfortable with Uncertainty
I had my first call for an alumni mentoring program today. He's a freshman, only 19, and he was mostly concerned with which courses would help the most with getting a job when he graduated.
I told him that while it might be important, setting a concrete plan for three years from now, (15% of his life from now!) might not be optimal. Would his goals change by then? Navigating the uncertainty of the future is hard. My advice was to keep that goal in mind but not to let it interfere with exploring classes that interested him now.
How do you deal with the uncertainty of the future? Do you try to control as much as possible? Do you resign yourself to fate like a leaf in a river? Or is there a third way?
For Oliver Burkeman, the third way is "not minding what happens". But this doesn't mean nihilistically surrendering to fate. You can still make plans, you just need to adapt when they don't come through.
a life spent "not minding what happens" is one lived without the inner demand to know that the future will conform to your desires for it - and thus without having to be constantly on edge as you wait to discover whether or not things will unfold as expected. None of that means we can't act wisely in the present to reduce the chance of bad developments later on.
But planning is an essential tool for constructing a meaningful life, and for exercising our responsibilities toward other people. The real problem isn't planning. It's that we take our plans to be something they aren't.
We treat our plans as though they are a lasso, thrown from the present around the future, in order to bring it under our command. But all a plan is - all it could ever possibly be - is a present moment statement of intent. It's an expression of your current thoughts about how you'd ideally like to deploy your modest influence over the future. The future, of course, is under no obligation to comply.
=> Book Here
Even perfect rationality doesn't predict the future. Naval Ravikant and Brett Hall discuss how science is a loop between explanations and predictions. Explanations come from seeing the results of experiments. Once you have an explanation, you can then predict. And then you verify the prediction with another experiment. And the cycle continues.
Put a beaker of water on a heat source, then put a thermometer into that water and turn on your heat source. As time passes, record the temperature of the water.
You’ll notice the temperature of water increase. So long as the heat source is relatively constant, the temperature rise will be relatively constant as well.
if you’re an inductivist—or even a Bayesian reasoner—and you don’t know anything about the boiling temperature and what phenomena happen at that temperature, you can join all of those lovely lines into a perfectly diagonal straight line and extrapolate off into infinity.
According to your Bayesian reasoning and your induction, after two hours we should assume that the temperature of that water will be 1,000°C. But, of course, this is completely false.
There’s no possible way of knowing this without first doing the experiment
The correct answer can only come from creativity.
Notice that science is not about predicting where the trend starts and where the trend goes.
That’s what science is, that whole complicated story about how the particles are moving faster. It’s not about trends and predictions; it’s about explanations.
Only once we have the explanation can we make the prediction.
=> Article Here
Nassim Taleb believes that removing uncertainty ruins life. His concept of antifragility, becoming stronger through adversity, needs uncertainty. He says there is:
touristification in all areas of our life:
This is my term for an aspect of modern life that treats humans as washing machines, with simplified mechanical responses – and a detailed user’s manual. It is the systematic removal of uncertainty and randomness from things, trying to make matters highly predictable in their smallest details. All that for the sake of comfort, convenience, and efficiency.
What a tourist is in relation to an adventurer, or a flaneur, touristification is to life; it consists in converting activities, and not just travel, into the equivalent of a script like those followed by actors. We will see how touristification castrates systems and organisms that like uncertainty by sucking randomness out of them to the last drop — while providing them with the illusion of benefit.
Becoming antifragile allows one to take advantage of the randomness of life.
=> Book Here
Tom Morgan has a similar outlook to Oliver Burkeman. But instead of "not minding what happens", he says that you should dance with uncertainty. Not only do you have to deal with uncertainty, but your actions influence everything around you. And an individual effort could have outsized effects.
A common response to this bewildering complexity and volatility is nihilistic surrender or an authoritarian control response. It seems like 99% of the current discourse revolves around how to become more rational so as to better control and understand the system.
The correct response is to "dance" by interacting and merging with systems, rather than trying to dominate and control them. There is no prediction and control, but there’s adaptation and flexibility.
The idea of dancing with the system is totally antithetical to a lot of Western orthodoxy about the inherent controllability of the world.
But on a personal level, it’s about finding your own unique capacity for “genius,” then co-creating with the environment. It might be the most optimistic idea I’ve ever encountered. This is because it frees us from the sense of powerlessness we can feel in the face of such an enormous and complex world. It may not require a huge, obvious intervention to save us from catastrophe. The tiniest act from a sage acting as a butterfly may be all we need. By becoming uniquely yourself, you merge with the system and help it evolve.
=> Article Here
Boyd Varty is a tracker at a game preserve in South Africa. In this podcast with Tim Ferriss, he explains that attenuation is the key to dealing with uncertainty. Only when he becomes attuned to himself and his surroundings does the next step become clear. And it's one step at a time.
If you want to go track a lion in the wild, you will have to become super uncomfortable with unknowns, you will have to give up all the ways you tried to know what to do, and say, "I don't know how to do this." All trackers operate using unknowns, they almost bring them to life. You know, you will need to develop your track awareness. Track awareness is teaching yourself to be attuned to a very specific set of signs metrics, but self generated.
There is information in your life if you're looking for transformation, but you have to teach yourself to attune to it. And so you know, what do you need to attune to in transformational processes, things that make you feel expansive, things make you feel alive, letting go of your rational idea of what you should do and noticing what you move towards, noticing what you're curious about, noticing the people who energize you, the activities that make you feel more alive. So I started to see through the eyes of the track of the first track, you know, the first track being the next thing you know, to letting go of, you know, where that animal might be, or letting go of where you think you should be, and just doing the next thing you know to do. And the next thing you know to do, if you watch great trackers, they drop into what I call the following state
The following state could be defined almost as constant creative response to what is occurring
You will need to develop the following state in your own transformational process. How can you play, how can you be creative with not knowing what you're trying to create or this place you're trying to get to, but being open and willing and aware and attuned.
=> Podcast Here
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