Green Lumber Fallacy

Gelegenheiten, bei denen man eine feste Vorstellung davon hat, mit was man es zu tun hat, eine Vorstellung, die sich im Nachhinein als falsch erweist, gibt es viele. Jeder von uns hat sie schon erlebt. In der Ökonomie gibt es seit Nassim Taleb sein Buch “Antifragile” veröffentlicht hat, die “Green Lumber Fallacy” und die geht wie folgt:

“In one of the rare noncharlatanic books in finance, descriptively called ‘What I learned losing a Million Dollars’, the protagonist makes a big discovery. He remarks that a fellow named Joe Siegel, one of the most successful trades in a commodity called ‘green lumber’ actually thought that it was lumber painted green (rather than freshly cut lumber, called green because it had not been dried). And he made it his profession to trade the stuff! Meanwhile the narrator was into great intellectual theories and narratives of what caused the price of commodities to move, and went bust.

It is not just that the successful expert on lumber was ignorant of central matters like the designation ‘green’. He also knew things about lumber that nonexperts think are unimportant. People we call ignorant might not be ignorant.

The fact is that predicting the order flow of lumber and the usual narrative had little to do with the details one would assume from the outside are important. People who do things in the field are not subjected to a set-exam; they are selected in the most non-narrative manner – nice arguments don’t make much difference. Evolution does not rely on narratives, humans do. Evolution does not need a word for the color blue.

So let us call the green lumber fallacy the situation in which one mistakes a source of necessary knowledge – the greenness of lumber – for another, less visible from the outside, less tractable, less narratable” (207)