Home » Quotes » You can’t connect the dots

You can’t connect the dots

19 March 2016

You can’t connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backwards. So you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future. You have to trust in something – your gut, destiny, life, karma, whatever. This approach has never let me down, and it has made all the difference in my life.

Steve Jobs


18 Comments to “You can’t connect the dots”

  1. Barbara Morgenroth

    I loved connect the dots books when I was a kid. Maybe that’s the next big thing for adults after they’ve used up their crayons.

  2. “You can’t connect the dots looking forward…”

    Does he mean you cannot predict the future? If so, it’s hogwash. If you can establish cause and effect relationships, which is what science is all about, then if you know the future dots you can connect at least some of them. Steve Jobs made his mark in a technology derived from hard science. It’s like Henry Ford discounting the science that made the invention of the combustion engine possible. Silly talk.

    • The events of a particular human life cannot be predicted by science. Science is about finding patterns in recurring events, and a particular human life does not recur; nor does the particular state of society in which that life is lived. Nobody knows enough of the future dots to tell how they will connect.

      Silly talk yourself.

      • No. Not silly talk by me. There are sciences of psychology and sociology that can predict parts of the future of humans. If a human is diagnosed with schizophrenia, much of his or her general behavior is predictable. The same is true with the behavior of crowds. The behavior of a serial killer is in general predictable. The behavior of a narcissist is in general predictable. Discounting science is silly–especially in the age in which we live.

      • Let me put it another way. The human brain, which is responsible for human behavior, is a biological computer. If we know the operating modes and algorithms of that computer, which we do in many instances, we can predict the behavior of that computer. A clever quip is sweet like poetry–except when it’s a lie.

  3. Tom Simon is correct.

    • Agree. I can write a program with output that is perfectly predictable, if I can predict the input. But I can’t predict the input. That is determined by an indeterminate condition of the universe. Wetware may have predictable outputs, but only when the inputs are predictable, and that is not possible. Wish it were.

      • Then there’s the problem of the thing you’re trying to predict knowing what you’ve predicted — so it does something else … a major stumbling block when dealing with those dang humans! 😉

  4. Barbara Morgenroth

    I had a friend whose Double E husband mapped out their lives on spreadsheets. When they would have children, retire, everything. Very impressive! All his science and data didn’t predict her infertility.

  5. But there are times with wetware when you do know the input. My point is that one can always predict in principle even if not always in practice. The idea that humans are special entities in the universe that do not obey physical and chemical and biological laws is an old idea and a fallacy. But maybe this is not the place to debate philosophy. The quote of words by Jobs is maybe too meager to know exactly what he was talking about—principle or practice? I think certainly the more we know about a molecule the more we can predict its behavior, and the more we know about a human the more we can predict his or her behavior. In the quote by Jobs he says no, he wants to depend on Karma or his gut. But of course he was selling himself–he was very good at that. So be it.

    • The behavior of humans in large numbers can be predicted and Jobs himself made his fortune doing that fairly successfully. (Hockey puck mouse aside.)
      So without context it’s an odd comment from him.

      • Large numbers of people aren’t murderers. No doubt this means that nobody ever gets murdered, which is a great consolation to the brutally slain dead.

        Most people go to a lot of trouble to set up a life full of predictable patterns for themselves, because it’s a lot less stressful to have everything figured out. OTOH, if things go wrong, most people will start behaving in a highly unpredictable fashion. Sometimes even the unpredictable stuff follows a cultural pattern, because again, this helps a person know what to do next.

        But going from “humans are energy-savers and like to follow energy-saving patterns” to “humans have no free will, which is why as a human I spend so much time trying to prove that I have no free will, instead of doing something fun”? That is going far beyond what is reasonable and observable.

        • Humans in large numbers are *statistically* predictable.
          Happy now?
          There’s enture husinesses built on that reality.

          It’s not a matter of saying that all human behave the same, but rather that given a specific stimulus a specific fraction will behave the same. Individuals follow their own logic but in large numbers that individual behavior is cancelled out.

          The snowflakes may be individually different but the storm doesn’t care. All that matter is how much snow falls.

          And in Jobs’ world all that mattered was how many people, by the million, expressed their individuality by buying his computers, media players, and phones. He provided the stimulus in the form of ads and they responded exactly as expected.

          Just as predictable as saying a 20% hike in BPH ebook prices would result in double digit sales declines.

  6. Complexity does not produce “free” will. It just makes prediction difficult and sometimes impossible. The paths of molecules in a gas are too complex to predict with any accuracy. We can predict the statistical behavior of the whole gas with accuracy but not the behavior of individual molecules (at least not yet). We can predict the individual molecular behavior in a gas with probabilities but not yet with certainties. That does not mean each molecule has “free” will. Having free will may make one feel more comfortable, but there is no evidence for it and the arguments against it are strong.

  7. And let me add this: Not only are humans subject to all the laws of physics and chemistry and biology, but it’s precisely those laws that make the development of a human being from a fertilized egg cell possible.

Sorry, the comment form is closed at this time.