They are closely related. I’ve been reading James Stewart’s excellent blow-by-blow of the early days of the crisis. As Nassim Taleb has emphasized, the crisis happened because the people running the financial system didn’t understand how it works. They vastly overrated their understanding — their ability to predict. (As Taleb has also emphasized, they still fail to grasp their ignorance.)
Surely it isn’t just the financial system. Surely we don’t overrate our knowledge just here. Much more likely, we overrate our knowledge about everything. This creates a great opportunity. It goes like this: 1. We overrate our knowledge about a large thing (the financial system). 2. We probably overrate our knowledge about everything. 3. We probably overrate our knowledge about small things. 4. There is more to be learned from studying small things than we realize. 5. Small things can be studied experimentally — an especially effective learning method.
Self-experimentation is an example of studying small things experimentally. These experiments taught me far more than I ever expected. Because I knew less than I thought. (Without realizing this fact.) Here are three examples:
1. Acne. I discovered that my beliefs about the two medicines my dermatologist has prescribed were exactly wrong. The one I thought worked, didn’t work; the one I thought didn’t work, did work.
2. Sleep. My self-experimentation led to new ideas about the control of sleep that no one had thought of. I didn’t know experimentation could do that so often. (I thought that such discoveries were very rare.)
3. Mood. My conclusions about mood are really different than what researchers usually say. I never expected to learn anything so radical.
These examples cover three dimensions. In the acne example, I learned I was completely wrong very quickly — that’s speed of learning. The sleep example is about number of discoveries; the mood example is about the “size” of one discovery.