Beware unintended consequences

In the 1800’s, the British government in India offered financial rewards for people that killed cobras.

So people started breeding snakes to cash in.

Once the incentive ended, the population of cobras in India soared as people released the ones they’d raised.

Same thing occurred in Vietnam with rats.

Every well-intentioned policy has an unintended consequence.

You can try minimise by avoiding common mistakes:

  1. Ignorance of how systems work
  2. Analytical errors (not doing the math)
  3. Focusing on short term gain

You can improve decisions by using following tools:

  1. Look for disconfirming evidence
  2. Understand your circle of competence
  3. Apply second order thinking (what could the results be in 5 years time?)

Your job is not to eliminate all unintended consequences, your job to minimise the negative outcomes of decisions you make.

* (Advice of Nassim Taleb)

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