I used to think I was pretty good at writing. Maybe not great — my blog’s dismal visit count showed that — but not terrible either.
Then I read about the Dunning–Kruger Effect. The DKE, as I like to call it, is a cognitive bias in which people who are highly competent mistakenly believe they are of average competence, while others who are totally incompetent likewise believe themselves to be of average, or even above-average competence.
You can read all about it, assuming you’ve kept your online subscription to Practical Neurology up to date. If, like me, you let it lapse, you can do what everyone else does when he needs to affect a thin sheen of erudition, and go to Wikipedia.
I used to believe I was “pretty good” at writing, but learning about the DKE destroyed that belief — without, unfortunately, replacing it with some other belief. Perhaps I am one of the talented but unconfident elite, skilled enough to be aware of my shortcomings. Like Socrates, all I know is that I know nothing. It’s not quite as implausible as it sounds: maybe I’m not a second Socrates, but I spend an hour or more writing every day and have done so for decades. I must have acquired some skill, right? My nonexistent Alexa rank could just be bad marketing.
On the other hand, reborn Socrates-es are fairly rare, so simple probability suggests I might be one of Dunning’s dummies, someone whose utter lack of talent is the main thing keeping him from realizing just how bereft of talent he is.
I suppose I could be someone who actually is merely pretty good, and by sheer luck, guessed accurately at my level of ability. Seems unlikely though.