The blue pill or the red pill?

With the red pill and blue pill dichotomy, the Matrix gave us a metaphor for the choice between comforting illusions and harsh reality.

Whenever I win a hard fought chess game, I feel like analyzing, digging deeper and finding out what I did right – the good tactics I used and the decisive moves I made to secure the win. When I lose a challenging game though, my first impulse is to close it down and move onto the next one rather than analyze and deconstruct it.

It is painful to dig deeper when one is wrong. And a chess engine, like a math textbook, offers you the most objective of measure of how wrong you are. There is no escape!

Learning from our mistakes exposes to us the bounds of our knowledge. When we try and learn from instances where we are right, we limit our knowledge and reinforce it. At the same time, we neglect the conditions to which our understanding might not apply. A person who analyzes only her wins on the chessboard, or only ever plays against opponents she can win against sets herself up for a disappointing loss somewhere down the road.

Being right every time leads to overconfidence and confirmation bias. Being wrong leads to humility and tells us the bounds of our knowledge.

Being right every time led to economic theory using the rational agent model. Being wrong gave us a more human behavioural economics.

Being right every time leads to religion and superstition. Being wrong – making falsifiable claims – leads to science.

There is gratification in being right. There is learning in being wrong. What will it be? The blue pill or the red pill?

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