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The danger of being too smart (overconfidence)

There is a fascinating article on 538 about the cognitive traps extraordinarily smart people are prone to as a result of usually knowing more than most people around them. ( ) I suppose it is another angle on the physicists who think they can solve any problem in unrelated domains just because they are so much smarter than other people. But it turns out that other domains require more than ten minutes and a 160 IQ to master, even if it might not seem like it at first.

For example, human social interactions are far more complex than most phenomena of physics, especially in larger groups. However, there are patterns and a limited degree of prediction is possible. As far as power and ethics go, people as far back as Aristotle have struggled with what to make of those who seek power for its own sake. And there is the question of why “good” bosses are so few. Lots of interesting thinking on this and related topics out there.

Back to my point about needing more than a high IQ and ten minutes to understand unrelated domains, consider the commentary around the Justice Against Sponsors of Terrorism Act, or JASTA. Federal law, international law, and sovereign immunity are complex topics with literally hundreds of years of precedent as they have evolved to their current form of stasis (in the environmental sense). Who can sue and where is extremely important, and as a general rule, if you want to sue a country (or a US state) you have to sue in that country’s (or state’s) court. You don’t get to go shopping jurisdictions hoping to find someone who will rule in your favor. And you can only sue the US in US Federal court, not in British court, and not in Saudi Arabia. The US will not send lawyers to defend itself anywhere in the world; it relies on existing treaties and agreements that all countries uphold to not allow each other to be sued except in their own court systems. So it is a really big deal if one country suddenly moves to upset the international legal balance of power and suddenly allow foreign countries to be sued in their courts (even if only one country, for one event). It opens all sorts of doors that are not easily shut again. And if any country needs to avoid having its government sued all over the world for wrongs both perceived and real, it is the US. The Senate is just being stupid. But how much of the commentary around this, even by very smart people, takes all of these factors into account? People with very high IQ’s but minimal domain knowledge regularly spout off about how simple the whole thing is. Sorry, no.

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