Saturday, January 05, 2008


One of the things that is far more rare (and thus precious) than it should be is the ability to get to the edge of what you know and stop there.  I don't mean quit exploring.  I don't mean stop pushing boundaries and I don't mean stop thinking or learning.  I mean the simple ability to say, "I know this, but I don't know that."  The ability to recognize when you are guessing.  To recognize when you are extrapolating and the related ability to know that extrapolation will only take you so far.

People get just as territorial over their mental maps as they do over their possessions, homes or status.  Some of the strongest, angry opinions I have ever heard have been on subjects like politics or religion where the actual amount of personal information is miniscule.  Religions are unnecessary for people who have looked into the face of god.  When you don't know what information was given, you can't accurately judge decisions that arose from the information. (check out Fooled By Randomness by Nassim Nicholas Taleb for an interesting, tiny insight: almost never have the people in the moment accurately judged what would prove important.  The great world-shaking stories of previous centuries are forgotten while what clearly was important with a few decades of perspective was often unnoticed at the time).

This is so common that I've come to expect it.

Yesterday I was very pleasantly surprised.  Steve Perry knows a lot.  Writing, of course.  Martial arts. Local politics. Surveillance. Guns. The SF community. Music.  Medicine. Pretty much everything except for hot tub repair... He goes on the short list of people who would be handy to have around if civilization collapsed. And... humble is the wrong word and I'm pretty sure he would laugh if I wrote it.  He makes a clear distinction between his facts and his opinions; between his data points and the conclusions he has drawn.  Steve can point out the difference even in himself, and that's a rare trait.

Not to imply that his opinions were wrong- his extrapolations are very careful and his insights draw from a long list of diverse experience.  And he likes being challenged, another very rare and precious trait.

He also will keep me on my toes about precise language usage. Wish I'd known him before the book went to the publisher.

It was the first really good day in some time.  Thanks, old man.


Kai Jones said...

It's a recurring surprise to me how easily we spin someone else's writing to fit the fantasy we have of them, whether as an opponent or a friend. Face to face, it's much harder: it's a wider band of information, with expression, posture, and vocal tone to clarify and specify the words we might have misinterpreted in pixels or print.

Bobbe Edmonds said...

And here I thought I was the only one referring to him as Old Man!

...And going to him for book advice.

...And arguing with him.

Steve Perry said...

Old man. Yeah, I'm used to being the oldest guy in the room.

I'd like to say I'm used to being the smartest guy in the room, too, but I can't claim that at home, much less out in public.

Then again, I expect I can keep up my end of the conversation with you young whippersnappers.

Best you don't forget what it says on the barrel of the Cisco's Kids's six-shooter, Kids ...

Rory said...

Bobbe- I don't know. Does he threaten you with a Crisco six shooter? I think he likes me better...

Oh, wait. That's Cisco. Never mind.

Steve Perry said...

Crisco? Is there some other use for that other than cooking?

Something you might have reason to know about ... ?