Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Bets I do not wish to take

Hacker News recently linked to an interesting article on this guy who is devoting his life to learning how to become a golf pro. He had no experience in golf, but is testing out the theory that 10,000 hours of practice can make you an expert in anything. This is an idea popularised by Malcolm Gladwell in his book Outliers.

The article received a huge amount of votes, although I don't know why. Maybe it's the 'you can accomplish anything!' can-do spirit.

Personally I think it's crazy. Not trying to become a professional golfer necessarily, although maybe that too.

No, what is truly crazy is being willing to wager six years of your life in order to test an idea based mainly on a Malcolm Gladwell book.

Steven Pinker nailed exactly what's irritating about Malcolm Gladwell, with one of the best zingers I've read in a while:
"An eclectic essayist is necessarily a dilettante, which is not in itself a bad thing. But Gladwell frequently holds forth about statistics and psychology, and his lack of technical grounding in these subjects can be jarring. He provides misleading definitions of “homology,” “saggital plane” and “power law” and quotes an expert speaking about an “igon value” (that’s eigenvalue, a basic concept in linear algebra). In the spirit of Gladwell, who likes to give portentous names to his aper├žus, I will call this the Igon Value Problem: when a writer’s education on a topic consists in interviewing an expert, he is apt to offer generalizations that are banal, obtuse or flat wrong."
Ouch, that's gotta sting.

More importantly, that's gotta make me not willing to invest huge amounts on a persuasive and quirky collection of cocktail facts.


  1. hehe...