Experienced violinists can’t tell the difference between a Stradivarius made 300 years ago and a new violin made a couple years ago. In fact, contrary to centuries of conventional wisdom, many players preferred the new violins to the Stradivarius (henceforth badivarius) violins.

Professional wine judges are no better than a random number generator at ranking wines. Their job is basically wild stabs in the dark.

Analysts and executives are pretty bad at predicting firm outcomes.

It’s like, what’s even the point?

Would a visitor from another world be able to distinguish us from amoebas? Are we any better than the wild beasts roaming in the fields? DID I HAVE TO CHECK WIKIPEDIA TO FIND THE APPROPRIATE PLURALIZATION OF “AMOEBA”?

The obvious answers are “no,” “no,” and “yes,” respectively.

It turns out that even our experts are blindfolded babies listening to white noise in a dark room. We know nothing except that death is inevitable, and we only know that because we’re constantly trying to stave it off by eating and drinking and not getting run over by cars all the time.

What. Is even. The point?

I mean, don’t get me wrong; I’m as desperate to stave off death as the next guy. But that’s been the central motivating tension for humanity since at least Gilgamesh, and one presumes that if people could’ve figured out how to write before that we would have even older protagonists seeking older methods to achieve immortality. In the elapsed time, we’ve gotten very good at writing (or at least I have), but we haven’t even figured out how to distinguish good wine from great wine, much less distinguish great wine from really great wine, and much MUCH less taste that sweet, sweet drink from the Fountain of Youth.

What have we been up to all this time? Why did Enkidu bother leaving the forest?

I don’t know. And I don’t know if I have capacity to answer these questions. I’ve been allotted 500 words for this post, and I’m over 300 at this point, so even if I could’ve answered them at some point, I think that opportunity has passed. It seems that in asking the questions I gave myself no room to answer them, which might be meaningful or it might not be meaningful or it might be that nothing is meaningful and in any case we’re all going to die.

To add insult to injury, from what I can tell, amoebas can be killed or die from environmental conditions, but in the right circumstances they can achieve immortality by way of asexual reproduction. I’m over here with the cognitive capacity to panic endlessly about my impending doom, and I actually have to face that doom, while amoeba don’t even have the cognitive capacity to distinguish Bob the Builder from Dora the Explorer, and they basically get to live forever.

Again, I ask you about “the point”: what is it?

Fortunately this post, at least, does have a point. It is threefold:

  1. Analysts and executives are over-optimistic and overconfident with their predictions, but they still do ok.
  2. If wine judges are just randomly picking, the best way to get your wine to win is to enter as many competitions as possible.  
  3. Contrary to centuries of conventional wisdom, the golden age of violin-making is right now.
Tony Ditta

Tony graduated in 2012 with majors in mathematics and economics. He now lives in Chicago and is pursuing graduate study in economics. He also has a very good cultural trivia podcast called “Here’s My Number, So Call Me Ishmael” available on Libsyn, iTunes, and Google Play.

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