Kathryn Schulz


American Journalist and Author, Book Critic for New York Magazine

Author Quotes

Judge William Stoughton of Salem Massachusetts became complicit in injustice and murder by accepting evidence that he should have ignored. Albert Speer became complicit by ignoring evidence he should have accepted. Together they show us some of the gravest possible consequences of mismanaging the data around us and the vital importance of learning to manage it better. It is possible to do this: like in the U.S. legal system we as individuals can develop a fairer and more consistent relationship to evidence over time. By indirection Speer himself shows us how to begin. I did not query he wrote. I did not speak. I did not investigate. I closed my eyes. This are sins of omission sins of passivity and they suggest correctly that if we want to improve our relationship with evidence we must take a more active role in how we think must in a sense take the reins of our own minds. To do this we must query and speak and investigate and open our eyes. Specifically and crucially we must learn to actively combat our inductive biases: to deliberately seek out evidence that challenges our beliefs and to take seriously such evidence when we come across it.

When we make mistakes, we shrug and say that we are human. As bats are batty and slugs are sluggish, our own species is synonymous with screwing up.

No insurance covers acts of idiocy.

Without being sure of something, we cannot begin to think about everything else?s.

Our love of being right is best understood as our fear of being wrong

Regret doesn?t remind us that we did badly. It reminds us that we know we can do better.

So I should revise myself: it does feel like something to be wrong. It feels like being right.

Thanks to error, we can revise our understanding of ourselves and amend our ideas about the world.

That however disorienting, difficult, or humbling our mistakes might be, it is ultimately wrongness, not rightness, that can teach us who we are.

The FDA estimates that of all the Americans who have tattoos, 17 percent of us regret getting them. That is Johnny Depp and me and our seven million friends.

The idea behind the meta-induction is that all of our theories are fundamentally provisional and quite possibly wrong, if we can add that idea to our cognitive toolkit, we will be better able to listen with curiosity and empathy to those whose theories contradict our own. We will be better able to pay attention to counterevidence - those anomalous bits of data that make our picture of the world a little weirder, more mysterious, less clean, less done. And we will be able to hold our own beliefs a bit more humbly, in the knowledge that better ideas are almost certainly on the way.

Doubt is a skill. Credulity by contrast, appears to be something very like an instinct.

The inability to experience regret is one of the diagnostic characteristics of sociopaths.

Granted it is easy at least comparatively to find pleasure in error when there's nothing at stake. But that can't be the whole story since all of us have been known to throw tantrums over totally trivial mistakes. What makes illusions different is that for the most part we enter in them by consent. We might not know exactly how we are going to err but we know that the error is coming and we say yes to the experience anyways. In a sense much the same thing could be said of life in general. We can't know where your next error lurks or what form it will take but we can be very sure that it is waiting for us. With illusions we look forward to this encounter since whatever minor price we paid in pride is handily outweighed by curiosity at first and by pleasure afterward. The same will not always true when we venture past these simple perceptual failures to more complex and consequential mistakes But nor is willing the embrace of error always beyond us. In fact this might be the most important thing that illusions can teach us: that is is possible at least some of the time to find in being wrong a deeper satisfaction then we would have found being right.

The miracle of your mind isn?t that you can see the world as it is. It?s that you can see the world as it isn?t.

I had drunk our great cultural Kool-Aid about regret, which is that lamenting things that occurred in the past is an absolute waste of time, that we should always look forward and not backward, and that one of the noblest and best things we can do is strive to live a life free of regrets.

The point isn?t to live without any regrets. The point is to not hate ourselves for having them.

If we have goals and dreams and we want to do our best, and if we love people and we don?t want to hurt them or lose them, we should feel pain when things go wrong. The point isn?t to live without any regrets, the point is to not hate ourselves for having them? We need to learn to love the flawed, imperfect things that we create, and to forgive ourselves for creating them. Regret doesn?t remind us that we did badly ? it reminds us that we know we can do better.

Thirty-three percent of all of our regrets pertain to decisions we made about education.

If you Google ?regret and tattoo,? you will get 11.5 million hits.

This was the pivotal insight of the Scientific Revolution: that the advancement of knowledge depends on current theories collapsing in the face of new insights and discoveries. In this model of progress, errors do not lead us away from the truth. Instead, they edge us incrementally toward it.

If you want to live a life free of regret, there is an option open to you. It?s called a lobotomy.

To err is to wander and wandering is the way we discover the world and lost in thought it is the also the way we discover ourselves. Being right might be gratifying but in the end it is static a mere statement. Being wrong is hard and humbling and sometimes even dangerous but in the end it is a journey and a story. Who really wants to stay at home and be right when you can don your armor spring up on your steed and go forth to explore the world True you might get lost along get stranded in a swamp have a scare at the edge of a cliff thieves might steal your gold brigands might imprison you in a cave sorcerers might turn you into a toad but what of what To fuck up is to find adventure: it is in the spirit that this book is written.

If you?re sitting there stressing about large cap versus small cap, or company A versus company B, or should you buy the Subaru or the Prius, let it go. Odds are, you?re not going to care in five years.

We are usually much more willing to entertain the possibility that we are wrong about insignificant matters than about weighty ones. This has a certain emotional logic, but it is deeply lacking in garden-variety logic. In high-stakes situations, we should want to do everything possible to ensure that we are right--which, as we will see, we can only do by imagining all the ways we could be wrong. That we are able to do this when it hardly matters, yet unable to do so when the stakes are huge, suggests that we might learn something important by comparing these otherwise very different experiences.

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American Journalist and Author, Book Critic for New York Magazine