Dumb Objections to Dumb Ideas

An interesting piece of wisdom from the venture capital world stuck in my head yesterday; it's a common trope in every funding environment, in fact, but for some reason I don't recall hearing it expressed quite this way before.

In short: every new idea, every plan, arrives associated with a raft of dumb objections, but you won't convince a smart, educated audience of the merits of your idea by taking time to dispel the dumb objections. The world is full of dumb ideas - many more of them than good ideas. Dumb ideas also arrive accompanied by dumb objections (just look at any average day in politics...), and one of the chores of being involved in a funding organization is to listen to people trying to demonstrate that a dumb idea has merit by demolishing dumb objections to that dumb idea. This is a form of rhetorical alchemy - often performed quite innocently by those sold on a plan that just won't work - that raises red flags for folk in funding organizations. They see all too much of it.

Turning this around to the form I am more familiar with, we have this: when presenting to an experienced source of funding, the factual focus needs to be on (a) demonstrating the merits of your plan, and (b) identifying and demolishing the real, smart objections to it. And of course, communicating the merits of the team who will carry it out the task at hand - which is strictly speaking a part of (a), but it's so vital to talk about the competence, track record and dedication of the people involved in any funding situation that it needs to be made explicit. Ideas are cheap and common - the teams capable of executing on them are rare and consequently worth a great deal.

When it comes to smart plans for the defeat of aging and elimination of age-related frailty, there many, many dumb objections - or at least, things that would be classed as "dumb objection" when you're talking to people who understand the space well and spend their time vetting requests for funding. I've spent a fair amount of time discussing these objections over the past few years, because they are important obstacles to be recognized and surmounted in broader advocacy efforts. I'm talking about things like the Tithonus error, the boredom objection, or the overpopulation objection (and other Malthusian resource arguments) to healthy life extension. For all the wisdom of crowds, people en mass tend to halt and worry at these sorts of non-issues in ways that individuals familiar with the space never do. Wider advocacy or education and setting out to obtain large philanthropic investments from a small community of potential donors are two very separate areas of endeavor - the boulders in the path and the strategies for success are quite different.

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" For all the wisdom of crowds, people en mass tend to halt and worry at these sorts of non-issues in ways that individuals familiar with the space never do."

When people don't really understand a problem they always reframe in simpler, more familiar terms, to which they then apply inappropriate solutions. Too many people have no real grasp of what science does or means and instead react to their fantasies about science.

Posted by: ShrinkWrapped at January 8th, 2007 2:56 PM
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