You Don’t Really Know How (Un-)Talented You Are, According To Science

You Don’t Really Know How (Un-)Talented You Are, According To Science

First, the good news: There’s a spate of new technologies to help companies measure and predict their employees’ talents, and it’s only a matter of time before artificial intelligence becomes a normal part of the hiring process. But now for the bad news: Those innovations have to surmount one pretty big obstacle first—human intuition.

The fact is that people just aren’t very good at knowing how talented they are at one thing relative to another, let alone at making objective (or even objective-ish) assessments about the strengths and weaknesses of others. Don’t despair, though. There are a few low-tech ways to size up your skill-set more accurately long before the robots roll in and do it for you.


One of the reasons talent is hard to observe is that it’s just an abstract concept, a story we invent to make sense of people’s accomplishments. When you know somebody, you might infer how talented they are based on their achievement and how well they’ve performed in school or at work, for instance, but even that is just an intuitive guess. Since all you have to base your judgment on are outcomes, it’s impossible to know which ones were caused by luck, hard work, or even just an ability to deceive people into getting what they want. You can’t possibly estimate how much any of these factors might have contributed to their success.

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