Blog 36: Dunning Kruger Effect by Xavier Lo, FIA, FRM, MBA

Over the journey of being an actuary, have you ever felt that the more you learnt, the less about the world you know? Have you ever met people who you thought were actually not that smart [醒目], but were not smart enough to know that they aren’t smart[唔知自己唔醒]? There’s actually a term for this: the Dunning-Kruger effect [鄧寧-克魯格效應].

As actuaries, as I have said before, we are one of the smartest people in any meeting room. However, what I meant by this statement is not that actuaries know everything. Instead, actuaries are smart in the sense that we can dabble a bit in every topic that is thrown at us, but we are very conscious of what we do not know. If we are asked to give an opinion on a topic that is out of our depth, we are more than happy to recognise another expert [專家] to help out.

This characteristic of us actuaries is not a natural-born gift. Rather, it is because of our training [訓練] that we are forced to learn a wide variety of skills. It is this training that lets us understand our own limitations [有限度]. Often at work, you’ll come across people who haven’t gone through the same training as us, and will brag about their knowledge. Although you might initially feel upset, just learn to let it go [放開]. You’ll be better off in the long run by not making a scene.

Another area that this comes in handy is when we do forecasting. We can often comment on the known-unknowns (like the fact that there will be a windstorm happening this year, but we just don’t know when). However, what we don’t do as well is acknowledging that we don’t know much about the unknown-unknowns [未知的未知數].

So my biggest advice to all of you is that although we are smart, don’t fall prey to the Dunning-Kruger effect. Or else you’ll just end up sprouting a lot of nonsense, and be just like those very people who you dislike!

Xavier Lo, FIA, FRM, MBA
Qualified fellow actuary (in UK and Hong Kong), Financial Risk Manager, and MBA graduate (listed on the Dean's List) with a passion for insurance, data science, and analytics. Experienced in a broad range of insurance roles (pricing, capital modelling, reserving, ERM), along with a touch of knowledge in banking. Member of the General Insurance Committee (2021), Actuarial Innovation Committee (2019 - 2021) in ASHK.
Subscribe us for more