Wednesday, September 01, 2004

Hanlon's Razor

Hanlon's Razor is a corollary to Murphy's Law.
Never attribute to malice that which is adequately explained by stupidity.
Does it matter whether it is malice or stupidity? People may suffer equally from either, and it may seem wiser to be equally careful in dealings with both malicious and stupid people. If a system threatens us, it surely doesn't matter whether there is conscious intention or blind incompetence. Or does it?

But stupidity sometimes seems easier to forgive, and it is therefore common for crooks to pretend to be stupid. Company directors avoid receiving information that would force them to take costly action; politicians avoid displaying signs of intelligence (let alone systems thinking) that might alienate the electorate. (Jimmy Carter tried to deviate from this rule, and look what happened to him.)

If people are more loved when they are foolish, and if politicians are more likely reelected when they go along with the folly of the electorate, then the purpose of folly is clear.

If ignorance is bliss, 'tis folly to be wise.

And since our great educational system is so successful in generating and reinforcing folly, that is evidently its true purpose.

See also blogpost on Negligent Supervision

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