Julian H. Bigelow’s “Maxims for Ideal Prognosticators”

In George Dyson’s classic, Turing’s Cathedral, he examines “the origins of the digital universe.” Dozens of passages caught my eye, including one wherein he discusses a list of George H. Bigelow’s fourteen “Maxims for Ideal Prognosticators.” They are eminently sensible and of potential value (perhaps substantial value) during a decision-making process.

Seven: “Never estimate what can be accurately computed.”

Eight: “Never guess what can be estimated.”

Nine: And if a guess is absolutely necessary, “Never guess blindly.”

Yes, yes, these are all obvious. Think of them as reminders of common sense that is often uncommon.  Many decision-makers see a yellow light as green, a “maybe” as “yes,” and “perhaps” as an agreement, if not an iron-clad commitment.

It is amazing to me how many business decisions (including the decision not to make one) are incorrect, insufficient, or irrelevant. Keep Bigelow’s three simple maxims in mind.

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I highly recommend Turing’s Cathedral, published by Pantheon Books (2012). A paperbound edition is also available (Vintage Books 2012).

To learn more about Julian Bigelow, please click here.


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