Great insight. The fucking up of a good thing is related to Nassim Nicholas Taleb’s extension of the term iatrogenesis to “iatrogenics.” In healthcare, the desire to intervene can be more harmful than doing nothing at all. Some surgeries turn out to not outperform placebo sham surgeries. Of course, surgeries can kill you.

We miss the harm of intervening, and we miss the secondary and tertiary effects of our actions. Those effects are too far down the road to see.

For example, many treatments have unintended side-affects down the road. Teenagers used to get radiation treatment for acne, and you can imagine that didn’t go well. Many drugs have been prescribed, only to later later been found to cause birth defects.

One secondary effect of our actions opportunity costs. We could have done other things with that energy.

It reminds me of the obsession over A/B testing. Few think about the opportunity costs of “[testing] everything” (!?), and the harm of being led astray.

Why do we do it? Because we want to do something, and we have a bias toward the tangible. Paying attention to something that’s right in front of us—especially something tangible and seemingly measurable—is easy. Thinking of what else we could be doing is hard.

Plus, as you pointed out, there are biases that come along with being a practitioner. The designer wants to design, the surgeon wants to operate, the drug company wants to sell drugs.

Tweaking the tangible give us the illusion of rationality. Ironically, in pursuit of the rational, we cause ourselves to be irrational. We’re irrationally rational.

Bestselling author of “Mind Management, Not Time Management”

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