top of page

Not a plumber!

The great John Cleese describes the Dunning-Kruger Effect in a brilliantly concise way which is vastly entertaining. Brilliant!

Unfortunately, the Dunning-Kruger was never really about intelligence, but rather the level of skill in a certain area. (I am sure Mr Cleese understands this, and was focused on a comedic way of explaining the basic concept) Also, it’s possible that the data presented as evidence may be an artifact of randomized data and the effect may not actually “exist”.

Either way, it’s important for us to guard against overconfidence, and even the most cursory search for “DIY fails” (“Do It Yourself”) will show some truly profound stupidity. I think the easiest way to guard against this sort of thing is simply to assume (or acknowledge) that almost every type of work requires expertise, and that you should assume you will be incompetent without at least some degree of instruction or training.

As an example which may resonate with some of us, rather than assuming that you can learn all there is to know about infectious disease and mRNA vaccines by reading some conspiracy theories you found online and calling it “research”, maybe assume that people who have spent their lives studying this sort of thing might actually know something that you don’t, and that you should at least listen to them.

How hard could that be? (Apparently impossible for far too many people, sadly.)

Short post this week, as I was doing a bit of plumbing work. This always takes longer (and is stressful for me, since I’m worried that I’ll make a stupid mistake) than it would for an expert, partly because you’re not clear on exactly what to do, and because you may not always have the tools that you need. In my own case, I thought I had everything ready to go, but discovered the hard way that a strap wrench may not have been the optimal tool for the situation at hand. I was concerned about crushing or scraping the fitting, so I tried to use the strap-wrench... and ended up breaking it.


I then went searching though my other tools, but none of my wrenches or pliers fit properly, so I finally went and bought a pair of “channel lock” pliers (adjustable pliers) that were big enough to do the job. So, rather than just doing the work, I started, stopped, went to the store, started again, and did the job.

On the plus side, I now have the tools for next time, and got some exercise from all the stair-climbing... water supply in the basement, tap upstairs – back and forth several times.

And, while I can do certain basic things, I hope I’m “smart” enough to realize when I’m out of my depth and when to call a professional.



bottom of page