Sunday, August 25, 2013

The path of progress . . .

HOW DO YOU GET TO CARNEGIE HALL? Like the old joke goes, practice! Malcolm Gladwell, who brought the term “Outlier” to the public consciousness, has a fascinating article in the New Yorker, “Complexity and the Ten-Thousand-Hour Rule” that is worthy of pondering in a world that uses Attention Deficit Disorder as an excuse for intellectual laziness. Never underestimate the power of human inertia.
Forty years ago, in a paper in American Scientist, Herbert Simon and William Chase drew one of the most famous conclusions in the study of expertise:
There are no instant experts in chess—certainly no instant masters or grandmasters. There appears not to be on record any case (including Bobby Fischer) where a person reached grandmaster level with less than about a decade's intense preoccupation with the game. We would estimate, very roughly, that a master has spent perhaps 10,000 to 50,000 hours staring at chess positions…
In the years that followed, an entire field within psychology grew up devoted to elaborating on Simon and Chase’s observation—and researchers, time and again, reached the same conclusion: it takes a lot of practice to be good at complex tasks.

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