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Ch­ester­ton’s Fence

TagLast edit: 16 Sep 2020 22:34 UTC by Ruby

Chesterton’s Fence is the principle that reforms should not be made until the reasoning behind the existing state of affairs is understood.

Related: Epistemic Modesty

From Chesterton’s 1929 book, The Thing, in the chapter entitled The Drift from Domesticity [1]:

In the matter of reforming things, as distinct from deforming them, there is one plain and simple principle; a principle which will probably be called a paradox. There exists in such a case a certain institution or law; let us say, for the sake of simplicity, a fence or gate erected across a road. The more modern type of reformer goes gaily up to it and says, “I don’t see the use of this; let us clear it away.” To which the more intelligent type of reformer will do well to answer: “If you don’t see the use of it, I certainly won’t let you clear it away. Go away and think. Then, when you can come back and tell me that you do see the use of it, I may allow you to destroy it.

See also

G.K. Ch­ester­ton On AI Risk

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(rootsofprogress.org)

[Link] “Proxy mea­sures, sunk costs, and Ch­ester­ton’s fence”, or: the sunk cost heuristic

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Mis­takes #4: break­ing Ch­ester­ton’s fence in the pres­ence of bull

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