Lumpaland Parable

Once upon a time …

Before Willy Wonka came to Lumpaland, hundreds of fierce dragons preyed on ten thousand Oompa Loompas and other wildlife.  A thousand Oopmas tried in their free time to oppose dragons, and a hundred had full time jobs at the Dragon Institute. 

Instituters were impressive – they had charisma, spoke eloquently, made cool devices and mastered hard math.  Others wanted to read about, sleep with, and study under them.  At any one time only a few instituters were out near dragons, usually at a safe distance, focused on a few relatively-safe dragons.  Some complained instituters were too distracted playing institute politics and trying to seem impressive.  But when Oopmas had to choose between an instituter and an amateur, the instituter usually won.

Amateurs were mostly content to read and argue.  And their readings and conversations rarely lingered long on one dragon.  While instituters focused on particular dragons, amateurs prided themselves on having passionate witty opinions on many dragons.  Amateurs were eager to associate with instituters, even as they complained instituters unfairly neglected their writings and favorite dragons.

The few amateurs who focused on particular dragons were considered boring, and amateurs who actually fought dragons were considered dangerous, to be avoided.  If an amateur actually managed to dispatch a dragon, the Oompas nearby trusted to report on the incident were usually instituters, who would if possible take full credit.  (If the amateur’s role could not be denied, he’d be thanked for his lucky assistance to the institute’s grand plan. To get more recognition, he’d have to dispatch several dragons or join the institute.)

Question: Biases afflict both amateur and instituter dragon judgments. Perhaps do-nothing amateurs are less biased, but so what?  Isn’t it do-somethings’ opinions that matter?

Added 16May: This story was inspired seeing amateurs indignant that professionals do not engage their brief writings on difficult complex topics (e.g., many worlds, zombies, Fermi question, nano/robot econ, disagreement, market manipulation).

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