Marc Andreessen on the "smart people fallacy"
Marc Andreessen* has taken to Twitter like a pig to mud. And unlike so many prolific tweeters, Andreessen is often thought-provoking and informative, regularly calling into question the widely-held beliefs of entrepreneurship and startup investing.
For Andreessen, Twitter is as much a publishing platform as a communication tool. It's not uncommon, especially on weekends, for the investor to write what's essentially a blog post and break it up into a series of tweets. This weekend was no different when he published an eight tweet series on what he calls, “The Smart Person Fallacy.” Andreessen explains that smart people, be they journalists, analysts, academics, intellectuals, or, yes, even venture capitalists are prone to overestimating their ability to “learn about situation X and figure out the way it should work.”
On the contrary, he says, true category experts are typically far more skeptical of their own abilities to understand situations within their domain based on the knowledge of their inherent complexity and unpredictability.
The lesson in Andreessen’s tweetstorm, it seems, isn’t that we should all stick to what we know and avoid new situations. The important takeaway is instead to be aware of our own limitations and confirmation biases. It’s easy to take the limited information we gather around a new situation and boil that down to overly confident conclusions. The reality is that our existing knowledge often blinds us to the depth of our own ignorance.
Socrates famously said as much more than two millennia ago, when he wrote, “The only true wisdom is in knowing you know nothing.”