1 + 9 + 90 =100 –> the formula to run your life

My friend Carlos is a genius who studied with an insanely famous genius — Herb Simon, the AI legend and man behind “bounded rationality” (also Nobel Prize winner etc etc).

He dropped his top top #1 sentence from Herb on me last night. Worth knowing it.

Carlos joins the lab and screws some stuff up. Herb gently points this out and Carlos is glum. Invited to dinner with the Simons, Herb offers him a small framework for handling mistakes.

All the knowledge in the world is 100 units. Break that into the bits you know — call that 1, the bits you know you don’t know — call it 9, and the simply unknown — likely 90.

A lot of people spend tons of energy trying to raise the 1 higher.

But here is a way easier job — move the 90 down. Find out things you don’t know about by exploring the unknown.


The Socratic line of course is “the only thing that I know is that I know nothing”. I guess you can apply Socratic skepticism and be like 0.1 + 99.9 + 0. Socrates got his 90 down to zero.

And there is a great line from Charlie Munger about the success of Berkshire Hathaway. “All we have done to be successful for 50 years is reduce our ignorance. Lucky for us, the the remaining supply is still very large.”