The überphilosopher Bertrand Russell presents a particularly toxic variant of my surprise jolt in his illustration of what people in his line of business call the Problem of Induction or Problem of Inductive Knowledge (capitalized for its seriousness) – certainly the mother of all problems in life. How can we logically go from specific instances to reach general conclusions? How do we know what we know? How do we know that what we have observed from given objects and events suffices to enable us to figure out their other properties? There are traps built into any kind of knowledge gained from observation.
Consider a turkey that is fed every day. Every single feeding will form up the bird’s belief that it is the general fule of life to be fed every day by friendly members of the human race “looking out for its best interests,” as a politician would say. On the afternoon of the Wednesday before Thanksgiving, something unexpected will happen to the turkey. It will incur a revision of belief.
-Nassim Nicholas Taleb, The Black Swan: The Impact of the Highly Improbable. “One Thousand and One Days, or How Not to be a Sucker.” p40