For the most part, we go through our day believing we perceive 100 percent of our environment. Our brains are wired to look for patterns, and it’s these patterns that shape the way we view the world.

Patterns we’ve learned from the past can be helpful, but occasionally a black swan comes along that obliterates all preconceived beliefs. This is why it’s good to create paradigms for understanding the world while at the same time making room for the inevitable outlier. (Or “outliers”–there could be many of them.)

But patterns aren’t just imperfect indicators of the future, they can also be imperfect analyzers of the past. Applying patterns to the past doesn’t necessarily do a good job of explaining what has already occurred, even if doing so nicely wraps history with a big bow. Sometimes we do a good job explaining things when there is no possible way they can be explained.

Vigilance is important in regard to our perception of the world. As George Orwell put it: “To see what is in front of one’s nose needs a constant struggle.”

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