- Scott H Young - https://www.scotthyoung.com/blog -

Which Ideas are Overrated?

“All models are wrong, but some are useful.” – George Box

There are some ideas which are true. “2+2=4” is an idea that is hard to doubt. There are also ideas which are false. “The moon is made of cheese” is wrong, no matter how you look at it. But most ideas are somewhat in-between—neither clearly true or clearly false, they may be true in some settings and false in others.

Consider the idea, “dogs are bigger than cats.” As a universal rule this statement is false. There are certainly some big cats and tiny dogs. As a statistical average, it is definitely true. Dogs tend to be bigger than cats.

The usefulness of this idea will depend, in part, based on the actual average difference between dogs and cats and how much cats and dogs vary. If dogs were bigger than cats in 99% of cases, this would be a pretty useful idea. If the relationship was only true 55% of the time, not so much.

Thinking about ideas this way, we can state that some ideas are overrated. They’re frequently brought out and believed in, but they’re far less reliable than most people give them credit. They may not be total lies, but they probably aren’t very useful as a whole.

Ideas I Think are Overrated

Here’s some ideas I think are overrated. Overrated in this sense is contrarian-by-definition. If most people think an idea is lousy, it’s probably not overrated. Instead, I’ll stick to ideas that I think are less useful than most people believe they are.

Those are just my picks, feel free to disagree in the comments. I’m also curious to hear your picks for overrated ideas—ideas which aren’t entirely false, but explain less than is popularly believed.

This post has also got me thinking about the opposite, underrated ideas. Which ideas offer a lot more explanatory power than people generally believe? My first round picks would be evolution, rationality as a simplifying model for human behavior and compound growth.