Dunning-Kruger Effect

The Dunning-Kruger Effect generally refers to not knowing that you don’t know. Or worse, being convinced you know something you actually have no clue about. Put another way, it is a cognitive bias that leads to people of low ability thinking they are superior without realizing they’re not.

Image of Trump with DK

Image of Trump with DK

[Yes, Trump has it.]

“Real knowledge is to know the extent of one’s ignorance” (Confucious)

“The fool doth think he is wise, but the wise man knows himself to be a fool.” (Shakespeare)

“The Enemies of Truth. — Convictions are more dangerous enemies of truth than lies.” (Nietzche)

However, those same studies found that those who performed the best ranked themselves far lower than their actual abilities, which could feed into Imposter Syndrome.

The conclusion is that the better or worse you are at something the less likely you are to accurately assess yourself.

This is why having some form of mentor or external assessment measure is particularly important even if certifications and many assessment methods are legitimately broken.

This is why I feel producing output is so very important. Your output is objective, it is undeniable both to you and others. It represents your skills, knowledge, and abilities. You never need to fear DK if you stick with output as your primary self-assessment tool.

Perhaps my favorite quote is from Bertrand Russell, whom I have long admired:

“One of the painful things about our time is that those who feel certainty are stupid, and those with any imagination and understanding are filled with doubt and indecision.” (Bertrand Russell)

I am passionate about my opinions and positions because they are based on as much objective observation that I can find, and yet I often change direction based on new information as I feel we should all do.

I absolutely expect to be shown how wrong I am about anything, anywhere, anytime — to the point that can become doubt, but it is equally important to apply oneself fully to progress based on the best knowledge we have available to us today — ever challenging it ourselves as all good technologists should. Because of this I’ve had to make some very uncomfortable and unpopular conclusions: