Identifying Topic Complexity

If we don’t train at it nor measure it, humans tend to be miscalibrated in many ways – our beliefs being the measures that fail to map to reality. One of the many ways we consistently misunderstand reality is by underestimating topic complexity.

There’s a story from Stephen Covey’s  7 Habits of Highly Effective people which illustrates this idea in a way we can easily wrap our head around: A man in the subway sees a guy whose kids are wreaking havoc. He immediately thinks that the guy is irresponsible – only to later find out that his wife had died.

A way to help identify a topic’s complexity is by guessing and assigning probability to our guesses on the topic. If you’re too sure or too uncertain, there may be hidden complexity.

In any case, it’s a good idea to abstain from oppinion in a topic if we’ve not seen it before or studied it before – unless we’re admitting our possible ignorance beforehand and work to create and improve our mental model from the outset.

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