Don’t be Artax in the Swamp of Sadness: Nothing is so obvious that it’s obvious

Errol Morris once said “Nothing is so obvious that it’s obvious.” How true is that? As I sit here wrestling with eccentricities of culture and trying to identify core problems, I keep having to remind myself that once something appears obvious in nature, then I know I’m in trouble. In fact, when the outcome seems determined I may have already passed the point of no return. I may be Artax stepping gingerly into the Swamp of Sadness in the NeverEnding Story (or “Infinite Story” as they like to translate it in Europe). 

That’s because we, as predictors, have an incentive to predict likely-events-of-low-consequence. The fact we have nothing to lose blinds us from seeing alternatives. And just like Artax, it can be hard to come back once you’ve committed to the obvious.

Nassim Taleb says it best when he writes that the world’s best predictors are “skin-in-the-game.” They can’t afford to gravitate to the obvious because they have something to lose.



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