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Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Are you a Fox or a Hedgehog?

Caught up in the whole issue of how generative modeling in complexity science can be used in decision-making, I chanced upon Philip Tetlock's book Expert Political Judgement: How Good Is It? How Can We Know? Tetlock divides thinkers into two categories: hedgehogs and foxes. Of course, this is a simplification, but it offers an interesting insight into how people think. Hedgehogs center their thinking around a single notion, that is the basis for all explanations. Foxes, on the other hand, are more appreciative of the complexity of the world, and see events as arising through multiple causes. Foxes thus offer lesser predictions, and are more cautious, while hedgehogs tend to get trapped in their own intellectual beliefs. However, hedgehogs score big when their predictions turn out to be correct. Hedgehogs are also parsimonius -- in that they would take the simpler explanation over the complex. Somehow, I think society usually tends to prefer a 'hedgehog' kind of explanation over a 'fox' one (lesser brain cells to use?). I would also think that the fox has a harder time to convey his/her reasoning in decision than the hedgehog, which is the essential problem in generative modeling -- if the result is multiple possible scenarios, how can it be useful for most practical purposes?



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