Hanlon’s Razor

446 wc

Technically I’m starting this post on the night of the 5th, while a thunderstorm passes overhead and rain pours down again. This time, there’s a lot of lightning as well, so I’ve turned off most everything in the house. I haven’t had a working uninterruptible power supply in quite some years, and the only drawback I’ve experienced is that I don’t like leaving my most expensive electrical equipment plugged in while lightning strikes within a few miles.

But the laptop is chugging away on battery power, so I can type into a WordPress editor as long as the router remains powered. (For some reason, I don’t consider the router to be vulnerable to lightning strikes.)

The unexpected free time gives me a moment to write about one of the few prompts that prompted a meaningful reaction: What is a favorite Quote/s, and tell us why. Wilhelm started us out with one of his favorites. (Though I have to deduct points for his use of the word “bespoke,” which is one of those trendy words that must never be used, lest ye be judged.)

I wouldn’t describe it as a “favorite” quote, but one sprung to mind immediately. I once worked on a fairly dysfunctional (ie. standard) government project, complete with politics and power struggles and secret cliques and passive aggressive bickering, both within the team and between the team and its patrons. A new, somewhat mild-mannered project manager arrived at this maelstrom one day, listened to everyone, and immediately diagnosed the factional issues that were obvious to anyone with observational skills. In trying to calm things down, he periodically said:

"Do not ascribe to malice what can be explained by ignorance."

Or something along those lines, I can’t remember his exact wording. I had heard the phrase before but this project manager quoted it often enough that it’s one of the only quotes I’ve committed to memory. It’s known as “Hanlon’s Razor,” and I believe it was most famously used by science-fiction author Robert Heinlein, though he did not create it.

It’s a quote everyone should know because I feel like ignorance (or perhaps misunderstanding) explains most human behavior. Quite a lot of people on the Internet might benefit from keeping it in mind, particularly “in these troubling times.”

Incidentally, the dysfunction at that particular work environment was not solved by the quote. The solution only arrived when key people left the project or retired, and then the project was eventually shut down, and some people lost their jobs, while others were moved elsewhere, and the government was left with a sub-standard product for its needs. I’m sure there’s no lesson to be learned from that.

This page is a static archival copy of what was originally a WordPress post. It was converted from HTML to Markdown format before being built by Hugo. There may be formatting problems that I haven't addressed yet. There may be problems with missing or mangled images that I haven't fixed yet. There may have been comments on the original post, which I have archived, but I haven't quite worked out how to show them on the new site.

Note: Comments are disabled on older posts.