Dunning-Kruger Effect and Survival

The internet is an amazing tool. It has enabled the exchange of information which may have otherwise only been known to no one but a few people. The rate, freedom, and amount at which knowledge is spread is unbelievable. This, however, is also the dark side of having this ability—Along with good information, and no filter in place, an amazing amount of bad or dated information is also passed on. And, certainly, the survival community is not exempt of such exchange. Unfortunately, following some of the bad information can make a bad situation worse.

The popularity and proliferation of survival based shows, along with the speed at which information can be gleaned, has created an explosion of survival schools popping up overnight, with much of these schools doctrines rooted in bad or dated information. In many cases, schools have hijacked the word “SURVIVAL”, because it is a popular term. These schools use it as a buzz word to wrap bushcraft and primitive skills in. Using the SURVIVAL wrapper these schools are teaching things which, frankly, should not be taught as part of survival. In one particular instance, I had one instructor tell me outright he used the word survival, because it was familiar and popular with people—He was a primitive skills practitioner. The truly unfortunate part is people are misguided into thinking that some of these schools, because they have such a large youtube subscriber base, or an amazing facebook following, must be the best and what they teach must be accurate and true. Because of their popularity, many of these schools are driven by their own hubris and the people who follow their doctrine are prepared to defend it tooth and nail, regardless of it’s accuracy.

There is also another type of survival teacher who, like some pop up SURVIVAL schools, is driven by his or her own ego and popularity. This other type of teacher is hero worshiped, because of their amazingly large post counts on forums and facebook. They may not have a school, per se, but because they have such a large post count, people accept them as some sort of Survival mystic. It seems to me, people with such high post counts can’t possibly be spending an awful lot of time in the dirt honing their skills. If they were, I just don’t see how they could possibly have enough time to have that high a post count. Oh, but be forewarned, do not publicly challenge the ideologies of this wizard of the keyboard who has spent countless hours honing his typing skills, lest you want a public stoning from the villagers who are presided over by this keyboard wizard—You are forboden to address his majesty in such a manner. To do so is heresy.

Tim Smith, of Jack Mountain Bushcraft, wrote a good article on this very subject. http://blog.jackmtn.com/dont-confuse-more-subscribers-with-more-knowledge-or-experience/  

There is a cognitive bias most, if not all, of these people suffer from. It’s known as the Dunning-Kruger effect—Less competent people rate their competence higher than it actually is. 

To that end, These keyboard survivalist, along with the villagers they preside over, also suffer from the Lake Wobegon effect—Tend to overestimate their abilities. You see this all the time, often starting like this, as it pertains to survival, “Man, bring on the zombies. I’m going to grab my go bag and head for the hills and live off the land indefinitely.” The Lake Wobegone effect also includes those armchair quarterbacks who like to tell others how they should have reacted in certain situations, etc. These are the types of people who see someone do something and think or say, “man I could do that better.” You see this ALL the time with everyone that discusses survival shows and arm chair quarterbacks them.

Mitigating a survival situation (Threat to Life) should be done as quickly and efficiently as possible. If someone is selling you on the idea the hand-drill, bow and drill, ferro rod, flint and steel and other esoteric devices are life saving tools, I would seriously question their reasoning and examine, with a critical eye, the rest of their doctrine. The only reason these devices would be used in a survival situation is because you don’t have a working lighter, matches, or road flare. If you have to resort to those esoteric methods of starting a fire, for survival purposes, you screwed up before you left the house for not being properly prepared. If they try to convince you those esoteric methods make good back up methods, ask them why can’t you just carry a back up lighter, or two, or three?

The sad reality is, without checks in place, this type of drivel will continue to happen, because stupid people are too stupid to realize how stupid they are.

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