Shane Parrish posted an article on Farnam Street titled The Two Types of Knowledge: The Max Planck/Chauffeur Test.

« Charlie Munger, the billionaire business partner of Warren Buffett, frequently tells the story below to illustrate how to distinguish between the two types of knowledge: real knowledge and pretend knowledge. »

« Munger explained it this way:

I frequently tell the apocryphal story about how Max Planck, after he won the Nobel Prize, went around Germany giving the same standard lecture on the new quantum mechanics.

Over time, his chauffeur memorized the lecture and said, “Would you mind, Professor Planck, because it’s so boring to stay in our routine. [What if] I gave the lecture in Munich and you just sat in front wearing my chauffeur’s hat?” Planck said, “Why not?” And the chauffeur got up and gave this long lecture on quantum mechanics. After which a physics professor stood up and asked a perfectly ghastly question. The speaker said, “Well I’m surprised that in an advanced city like Munich I get such an elementary question. I’m going to ask my chauffeur to reply.” »

« In this world we have two kinds of knowledge. One is Planck knowledge, the people who really know. They’ve paid the dues, they have the aptitude. And then we’ve got chauffeur knowledge. They’ve learned the talk. »

« The majority of journalists, however, fall into the category of chauffeur. »

« True experts recognize the limits of what they know and what they do not know. If they find themselves outside their circle of competence, they keep quiet or simply say, “I don’t know.” »

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