Always Do

I watched a great video some time ago by a fellow who gave a fabulous flipboard presentation on why we should act on global warming, whether its true or not. The argument in a nutshell was that while not acting may have terrible consequences, acting, at worst, will tie up some resources, and at best will save us from a massive catastrophe. So no matter what the facts, we should just act as if global warning was true, because the consequences of not acting are too dire.

This made me think of how to act in an information-constrained environment in general. If, (and when as is practically always the case), we do not have complete visibility on an ecosystem, if we come up with a strategy that has a viable future outcome, we should act on that strategy rather quickly. The thing is, we spend so much time analyzing and pondering, but the value of such activity is substantial only if we have enough information – which we seldom do.

This is emphasized even more these days – and in the near future – as future visibility becomes even more opaque, thanks to the accelerating evolution of various technologies. So instead of paralyzing with analysis, we should act, gather data and act again. Because if we don’t the answer, – as Shervin Pishevar succinctly put it at the Dublin Web Summit –, is already ‘no’.

But if we should act first, won’t this lead to a world of aimlessly fumbling headless chickens? Of course not. Acting first does not mean acting without absolutely no information whatsoever.

Let’s look at global warming again. The case is not that we have absolutely no projections on global warning. The case is that the probabilities of the positive and the negative outcomes are competitive enough not to warrant an immediate commitment of resources. (Altough one could argue this depends a lot on whose projections we talk about, what with the scientific community being pretty much aligned on this one.)

And in this case it is the active strategy that enables us to quickly update and iterate on knowledge, whereas the passive strategy will lead us nowhere, basically just left astray at the mercy of whatever the actual facts are. Facts may be what they are, but the only way to change them to match our needs better is to act.

Therefore, whenever you are presented with a choice with at least more than negligible possibility of a positive future outcome, you should always do.

Then follow up on results, reiterate where necessary and do again.


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