The Uses and Abuses of Lemon Juice

Alex Tabarrok passes along this great article about the Dunning-Kruger Effect, in which “our incompetence masks our ability to recognize our incompetence.” Here’s patient zero:

Wheeler had walked into two Pittsburgh banks and attempted to rob them in broad daylight. What made the case peculiar is that he made no visible attempt at disguise. The surveillance tapes were key to his arrest. There he is with a gun, standing in front of a teller demanding money. Yet, when arrested, Wheeler was completely disbelieving. “But I wore the juice,” he said. Apparently, he was under the deeply misguided impression that rubbing one’s face with lemon juice rendered it invisible to video cameras.

It might be socially useful to seed similar misinformation elsewhere, the better to snare people who would accept just any advice in plotting their nefarious deeds. After all, someone might have told Wheeler to wear a ski mask, but they didn’t.

The rest of us would either never look for information on how to commit a crime, or we’d recognize immediately the work of the Dunning-Kruger brigade.

Of course, we couldn’t have a central repository of false information. Then everyone would know it was false.

Or maybe not. The Anarchist Cookbook remains inexplicably popular, despite its obsolete phreaking designs, faulty explosives recipes, and an LSD formula that’s mostly wishful thinking. It doesn’t even have Murray Rothbard’s recipe for cherry clafouti, which is why I bought the damn thing in the first place.

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