Who drew the circle?
The circle that got me thinking this morning is found in Keri Smith’s Wreck This Journal, which I’m using for my daily journaling at the moment.
I decide to write some words inside the circle from Nassim Taleb on randomness:
This discussion aims to show how some predictability (or lack of knowledge) can be beneficial to our defective species. A slightly random schedule prevents us from optimising and being exceedingly efficient, particu-
I couldn’t get all the words inside the circle, so I had to write outside it:
larly in the wrong things.*
That’s the problem with our pre-existing circles, not everything we want or need to put in them fits.
The discussion Taleb refers to an imaginary weeknight meal with a suburban commuter. The train the commuter is aiming for is the 7.08 express, they don’t want the 7.42 local for some reason. This rules the pacing of their meal together. At 6.58, the commuter excuses themself, leaving Taleb with the bill because the meal hasn’t been finished.
Taleb imagines another scenario. This time the commuter is unaware of the exact times of trains, only that they run roughly every 35 minutes. This time finishing the meal, Taleb sees how, whilst he may still pay for the meal, it is followed by a leisurely walk to the station and a fifteen minute wait.
Taleb has introduced us to the satisficer and the optimiser in his two tales:
research on happiness shows that those who live under a self-imposed pressure to be optimal in their enjoyment of things suffer a measure of distress.*
The good news is that we are made for randomness, for the less optimised version, as Richard Sennett points out here in questioning our desire for the perfect machine:
Humankind has first to accept its own weakness and propensity to make a mess of things; if people really take to heart the faultiness in themselves, the perfect machine will seem less a commanding remedy; indeed we will actively seek a remedy to it.**
Something else begins to emerge when we accept and embrace this randomness within; we become artists:
An artist is someone who brings humanity to a problem, who changes someone else for the better, who does work that can’t be written down in a manual.^
Of course you may still want to fit it all inside the circ …