terça-feira, 25 de janeiro de 2011

How Not to Bo a Nerd

Think of a bookworm picking up a new language. He will learn, say, Serbo-Croatian or !Kung by reading a grammar book cover to cover, and memorizing the rules. He will have the impression that some higher gram­matical authority set the linguistic regulations so that nonlearned ordinary people could subsequently speak the language. In reality, languages grow organically; grammar is something people without anything more exciting to do in their lives codify into a book. While the scholastic-minded will memorize declensions, the a-Platonic nonnerd will acquire, say, Serbo-Croatian by picking up potential girlfriends in bars on the outskirts of Sarajevo, or talking to cabdrivers, then fitting (if needed) grammatical rules to the knowledge he already possesses.

Consider again the central planner. As with language, there is no gram­matical authority codifying social and economic events; but try to con­vince a bureaucrat or social scientist that the world might not want to follow his "scientific" equations. In fact, thinkers of the Austrian school, to which Hayek belonged, used the designations tacit or implicit precisely for that part of knowledge that cannot be written down, but that we should avoid repressing. They made the distinction we saw earlier be­tween "know-how" and "know-what"—the latter being more elusive and more prone to nerdification.

To clarify, Platonic is top-down, formulaic, closed-minded, self-serving, and commoditized; a-Platonic is bottom-up, open-minded, skeptical, and empirical.

(The Black Swan, Nassim Nicholas Taleb)

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