I miss surprises. I really do.

I feel a little bit sorry and a little bit nostalgic about the fact that things are becoming so increasingly obvious that it gets harder and harder to imagine — forget about trying to actually find — things that aren’t completely predictable. It’s not as if the state of things induces a feeling of clairvoyance. It’s more like ennui. The feeling makes me think of the famous quote from E.B. White:

I arise in the morning torn between a desire to improve (or save) the world and a desire to enjoy (or savor) the world. This makes it hard to plan the day.

My paraphrase is this: I arise in the morning torn between a desire for something, anything, that might be completely unexpected (surprise) and a desire to NOT have to settle for anything predictable (booby prize). This makes it hard to arise in the morning.

What the Hell?

I’m feeling this way and writing this now because I came across this post on Workplace Insight: “Insecure leaders prefer to take advice from machines than people“. The upshot of the post is right here:

Leaders who are in danger of losing their position are more likely to take advice from a data algorithm than another human … an insecure leader feels too threatened to accept advice, suggesting that those who would gain the most from taking the advice of others, are less prepared to do so.

Given the popular prevalence of imposter sydrome, to say nothing of the Dunning-Kruger effect, is it any wonder people don’t trust each other, let alone themselves? It’s a horse race between ourselves and others to see who’s less likely to believe we’re capable of anything, let alone sound decision-making.

What the hell’s the matter with us anyway?

Get a Grip

I have two theories:

  1. There’s so much data in the world, we feel inferior to it — even though we created it.
  2. The proliferation of all this inscrutable data has produced fraudulent, self-appointed experts to whom we also feel inferior — even though we created the data with which they inflated themselves and their importance.

Someone told me once, a long time ago, an expert is anyone who travels more than 50 miles to tell someone else what to do. Those days are long gone. With the combination of Big Data and electronic communication, an expert now is anyone with a keyboard, the audacity to call himself an expert, and an audience gullible enough to believe him. And that audience is getting bigger by the second.

The entire phenomenon is monstrous. And we created that, too, simply by tolerating and succumbing to it.

If we can find our knickers, kids, we need to get a grip of ’em. We do.


Original French billboard poster for Frankenstein, 1931, by artist Jacques Faria.

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