Sunday, August 7, 2011

The God Complex

From a reviewer;
I'm not sure the book told me anything I didn't already feel true; for instance, my job history has been an ode to variation, limiting the scope of failure, and adapting to local circumstances. Still, I think this book has a lot to offer for a wide audience.

From Wired;

It took its most potent form in Edinburgh in an outstanding talk by Wired contributor Tim Harford, who urged his listeners to beware the "God complex" -- the dangerous notion that an expert will make the most appropriate decision. Instead, we would be far better off relying on evidence-based decisions -- in other words, working out the best course of action through trial and error.

Harford began with the tale of Archie Cochrane, a second-world-war prisoner-of-war and doctor, whose men (including him) were ill through a mysterious swelling of fluid under their skin. He had smuggled some vitamin C into the camp, and also obtained some Marmite on the black market. After splitting his men into two groups and giving each group a different "medicine", he found that those treated with Marmite -- containing vitamin B12 -- were cured within days. He had kept detailed data in his notebooks -- which persuaded the Germans to allow PoWs to be given vitamins.

Cochrane was the epitome of a fighter against the God complex -- the notion that, no matter how complex a problem, one has an infallible belief that one is right. Doctors often have it; so do politicians and business leaders. That doesn't mean they're right. "We should adopt humility and abandon the God complex for a system that works," Harford declared.

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