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Wizards and Prophets

This is a good mental model from that book The Wizard and The Prophet.

Prophets preach what will happen if we continue on our current course.

Wizards create discontinuous technological breakthroughs to divert the current course. These breakthroughs often nullify prophecies.

Prophets often refuse to accept that the new reality means that their prediction is wrong, and they have effectively become a false prophet.

Smart prophets should take into account that wizards exist!

Are prophets necessary to spur Wizards on, or do Wizards just do their own thing independently, sometimes disproving prophets?

This pattern repeats itself over and over.

Example: Population

Prophet: Ehrlich’s Population Bomb was a bestselling book that projected a massive population boom and subsequent catastrophe. He was right that the carrying capacity of earth before artificial nitrogen fixing was about 2B humans.

Wizard: The Haber Process was a breakthrough in chemistry, creating artificial nitrogen fixing. Today, Nearly 50% of the nitrogen found in human tissues originated from it. Thus, the Haber process serves as the "detonator of the population explosion", enabling the global population to increase from 1.6 billion in 1900 to almost 8 billion in 2020.

Last edited on Jan 2023