Anticipation vs Explication

Any smart person can come up with a plausible¬†explanation of something after the fact – you’re adding real value when you can predict an outcome in advance.

Casey Anthony was just found innocent of the murder of her daughter. Almost everybody, professional and layperson alike, thought she would be convicted.

Almost immediately, the pundits weighed in with explanations – the prosecution went too far, they said, in pushing for first degree murder. The evidence wasn’t strong enough for a first degree conviction, the prosecutors had overreached, a lesser charge would have been more appropriate, etc.

However, the prosecution had wrapped up its case weeks before the acquittal. If the pundits saw a mismatch between the charges and the evidence, they could have piped up then. Yet, most said nary a word about this, because they did not see it as an issue at the time. They, like the rest of the world, foresaw a conviction.

When the stunning acquital came, they were quick to manufacture reasons. These reasons made sense, in a way, but once you know how a story ends, it’s relatively easy for an intelligent person to select a set of facts and inferences that leads toward the outcome, and weave these together into an explanation of what happened. It’s much harder (and more valuable) to weave together the facts and probabilities in advance, and correctly divine an outcome before the movie ends.

The world needs more psychics and prophets – we have enough Monday morning quarterbacks and plausible explanations that come when the punchline is already obvious.

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