Can you complete this task? Break this stack of bricks? Still your mind? Take on a whole group of opponents? Get us to where we need to go?
All unanswerable questions until after the fact, never before.
In Thomas S. Khun’s book, The Structure of Scientific Revolutions*, he examines the reality that science is based off of previous data collected over a period of time; allowing us to reasonably conclude that a new event will behave in the same way with up to 99.9999-ad infinitum percent certainty. The key is that we can only reasonably conclude something, never irrevocably conclude it.
That being said, why do we place so much emphasis on social heuristics? Simply because something appears to be gold does not always mean that it is. Just because we believe someone to be that perfect person, does not mean that they always are. Appearances, in this world, are everything—and they’re aways highly deceiving. This is the primary reason why we place so much emphasis on accolades; whether it be university degrees, black belts, yoga certifications, etc… we trust that this piece of paper concludes that the person who received it is skilled in whatever it is they do; when, in reality, you just never truly know how a person will perform until they are in that situation. You can prepare your entire life for a fight, but it will never be that specific fight until it’s time.
Is there a way around social heuristics?
As humans, we rely on heuristics to help us problem solve. We require imaginative foresight—assumptions—guesses—social heuristics—to help guide us in what we are going to do next. The trick is to not get caught up in them too whole-heartedly. The trick is to understand your heuristics, see them for what they are, be open to the possibility of being wrong, and accept the consequences of your chosen actions as being “the best choice you could have made with the information that you were given at that time.”
Heuristics are not evil; they are a cognitive problem-solving tool for navigating the world around us. The question is, can you realize that you’re being guided by them, or are you just going to sit there thinking you’re right all the time?