Wittgenstein’s Ruler

Weekly I/O#31

Wittgenstein’s ruler: Unless you have confidence in the ruler’s reliability, if you use a ruler to measure a table, you may also be using the table to measure the ruler.

Book: Fooled by Randomness: The Hidden Role of Chance in Life and in the Markets

If you are not certain about a ruler’s reliability, the less you trust the ruler, the more information you are getting about the ruler and less about the table. Likewise, unless the source of a statement has a high qualification, the statement will be more revealing of the author than the information itself.

This concept is called Wittgenstein’s ruler by Nassim Nicholas Taleb, which can be applied to book reviews and book recommendations. Like in my Books I Read in 2021, the readers should view the recommendation as a mix of the book’s quality and my personal preference. The less you trust my judgment, the more information you will be getting about my own taste and less about the books.

This idea can also be used to handle compliments and criticism. When viewing others’ feedback on our work, we can also take it as we are using our work to evaluate others’ feedback. Also, feedback from an anonymous person might be more likely all about that person, while that of a qualified person might be more useful for us.

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