Replied to From vaccines to homework, why we humans can’t stop overpromising (Tim Harford)

“Facing a choice,” he wrote, “we gave up rationality rather than give up the enterprise.” The project took eight years and ended in failure.

Tim, your discussion of overpromising reminded me of something from Nassim Nicholas Taleb in Black Swans that ‘the longer you wait, the longer you will be expected to wait’.

With human projects and ventures we have another story. These are often scalable, as I said in Chapter 3. With scalable variables, the ones from Extremistan, you will witness the exact opposite effect. Let’s say a project is expected to terminate in 79 days, the same expectation in days as the newborn female has in years. On the 79th day, if the project is not finished, it will be expected to take another 25 days to complete. But on the 90th day, if the project is still not completed, it should have about 58 days to go. On the 100th, it should have 89 days to go. On the 119th, it should have an extra 149 days. On day 600, if the project is not done, you will be expected to need an extra 1,590 days. As you see, the longer you wait, the longer you will be expected to wait.(Page 159)

Listened A free chapter of The Data Detective audiobook from Tim Harford

My book The Data Detective is out today in the US and Canada. (The same book is called How To Make The World Add Up elsewhere in the world.) To celebrate publication, Riverhead Books have teamed up…

In this excerpt from The Data Detective, Tim Harford shares the importance of scientific curiousity when it comes to being a data detective.

A curious person enjoys being surprised and hungers for the unexpected.

One strategy he shares for fostering this is to get people to simply explain what they are talking about. Rather than justifying why a universal based income is important, get them to explain what it is.

Bookmarked Tim Harford (Tim Harford)

Tim is an economist, journalist and broadcaster. He is author of “How To Make the World Add Up” / “The Data Detective”, “Messy”, and the million-selling “The Undercover Economist”. Tim is a senior columnist at the Financial Times, and the presenter of Radio 4’s “More or Less”, the iTunes-topping series “Fifty Things That Made the Modern Economy”, and the podcast “Cautionary Tales”. Tim has spoken at TED, PopTech and the Sydney Opera House. He is an associate member of Nuffield College, Oxford and an honorary fellow of the Royal Statistical Society. Tim was made an OBE for services to improving economic understanding in the New Year honours of 2019.

Bookmarked We won’t remember much of what we did in the pandemic | Free to read (Financial Times)

Covid-19 may be as significant an episode as any, but it will not trigger the same sharp memories. Where were you during the pandemic? At home. For months. And without a physical change of scene, even new experiences all start to seem the same.


“You need to get out more,” someone once admonished me. She was right. These days, we all do.

Tim Harford discusses the assocaition between memory and place, explaining why remembering the quarantine will be so hard.