The curse of Knowledge Overload

Afsal Thaj
4 min readDec 17, 2023

Talking to my successful fitness trainer at Alpha Gym Sydney, I expressed, “Look, I think I am messing up my life by working at night,” to which he casually replied, “Ah, so you got a job?”. Well, that was as straightforward as it could get.

However, I didn’t give up. I wanted him to appreciate my struggle, so I continued, “Well, look, it’s sort of affecting my circadian rhythm.” Gently laughing, he shared that he sleeps for only four hours to rise at 5 am and train his clients, who happen to be students of Jujitsu. He stays fit, probably sporting a six-pack, always smiling, and an absolute gem of a guy! In short I think he almost said — “Fuck it mate” in that Australian style!

Reflecting on my concerns about time management, after this conversation, I found myself thinking more along the lines of “What on earth is time, anyway?” and eventually concluded with a simple “Yea Fuck it!”

Within a span of a minute, all the theories, books, videos, Instagram stories, and social media pages of fitness trainers that had cluttered my mind with overconsciousness vanished into thin air!

The Most Sensible Adjective of our Current Knowledge is Little

The biggest curse of our lives is information taken from highly opinionated books, writings (such as this one), videos, and role models, and the act of guesstimating ourselves, others, situations, and opportunities.

Let me get slightly technical here, without hopefully annoying those who are not into it.

The most accurate judgement is still a probability

Heard of AI, machine learning? Obviously, in 2023, the answer is yes!

Imagine having trillions of rows of data, where each row is filled with hundreds and thousands of variables, each carrying a label like yes or no, failed or success, true or false, evil or good. Now, in your mind, can you accurately assign a label to a new data point that shares the same variables but with different values?

Now, let’s simplify things. Picture just 10 rows of data, each having 10 variables. Can you analyze these rows and make predictions about the 11th row for those same 10 variables? Take a deep breath and ponder the answer within yourself.

Back when I worked for Mitsubishi Electricals in Tokyo, the data points seemed more straightforward than the complexities of my own life! I managed to create a data model predicting “failures” in their machinery as a proof of concept, achieving a 70 percent accuracy. We celebrated that 70 percent!

There is no such Line that you can follow in Life to predict the outcome with 100 percent accuracy. Maths is God due to Pi (LOL) and even Differentiation in Maths to any level cannot solve it my friends!

Confusion Matrix of Life

In machine learning (or AI or deep learning), a fundamental idea floats around — namely, the Confusion Matrix. The confusion matrix serves as an indicator of the model’s performance. Remember, model is that equation in our brain/machine that is formed from different learning to predict the next outcome. This confusion matrix consist of a count of true positives, true negatives, false positives, and false negatives, offering a comprehensive overview of its accuracy.

  • True Positive: Successfully recognizing and nurturing positive relationships in life. We found — We happy!
  • False Positive: Misjudging or investing in relationships that, in reality, were not positive! Bhoom!
  • False Negative: Failing to acknowledge potentially positive relationships, missing out on meaningful connections. Missed it bigtime!
  • True Negative: Recognizing and avoiding toxic or harmful relationships. Well done!

And we all still fuck up yeah?

Every decision we make in life is akin to crafting a mathematical model — a nuanced creation that doesn’t always fall neatly into the realms of true positive or true negative. Our judgments can result in false positives and false negatives. But remember that we are not machines to get that fine grained learning of subtilities and we are neither immortal to tune this forever. We got a short time to judge and be ready to fall into any of these categories.

Let me judge here and I guess it can mostly fall into True Positive — I guess? Here it goes!

None of us possesses an intellect rivalling that of a machine’s precision. In fact, when it comes to life, even identifying variables itself is difficult. There is no principal component analysis to pick and choose the right variables in life. There is no machine to get that fine tuned line of prediction. There is no testers to predict the performance. We are on our own!

Boring and Dangerous False Negative

The Information Age, where we’re constantly bombarded with knowledge, can lead to a significant fallout: False Negatives. In life’s journey, the most dangerous and boring pitfall is the False Negative. Imagine bypassing an opportunity because it seemed risky, only to discover later that the perceived negativity was unfounded. It’s like walking a tightrope of caution, and paradoxically, avoiding all risks might be the riskiest move, as someone wisely said.

In simple terms — Execute it ! Fire ! Don’t wait beyond an extent !

Take Away

Stop any learning that aims for a zen percent accuracy, that we just proved it’s impossible. Instead, make swifter decisions that makes your life more fun. Embrace risks which makes life less riskier. Ease your mind that we got that one single life and why try fine tuning the matrix of mess to another matrix of mess ?

At the very least, get out soon for the next movie nearby. No preaching intended — just a gentle reminder.

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Afsal Thaj

A software engineer, traveller, fitness trainer, hiker and I write at times. https://twitter.com/afsalt2