Don’t know (can’t know)

If your career depends on detection and selection, it’s a helpful fiction to imagine that you’re doing something more than random guessing.

College admissions.

Greenlighting a movie.

Picking stocks.

Publishing a book.

The data makes it clear, though: while it’s possible to be worse than average at most of these selection tasks, it’s almost impossible to do consistently better than the average.

As William Goldman said, nobody knows anything.

It’s so much more honest (and efficient) for a selective college to send a letter to the people who meet basic criteria and say, “you’re good enough, but there aren’t enough slots, so we’re going to pick randomly.” Because the truth is that a randomly selected class of qualified people is going to be just as high achieving as any other combination they could create.

And if you’re the one who wasn’t picked, don’t sweat it. They don’t know better. They can’t.