Skeptics and thermostats

UPDATE 12:50PM: Please assume I'm an idiot (see end of post) Many have suffered from being in a building where there was a centralized thermostat for the whole building (or the whole floor), with the predictable result that some rooms are way too hot or way too cold. (Sounds like a metaphor, watch for it...)

Things were even more extreme in the former Soviet Union, where there were centralized heating plants for a whole city, and the hot air would then be pumped out to individual homes and offices. So basically the whole city had one centralized thermostat.

What a nice and simple solution there is: give each room its own thermostat. First, there is automatic adjustment from the thermostat to keep it from being too hot or too cold. Second, the people in the room at any one moment can choose to adjust the thermostat according to their preferences.

A thermostat is a very simple knowledge processing device. So this is a great metaphor for (here it comes!) the advantages of decentralized knowledge over centralized knowledge  (Hat tip to Adam Martin for the Facebook conversation that sparked this idea).

When skeptics (like me) criticize the uselessness of very aggregated centralized knowledge on "how to do development", we get labeled nihilists, like we're saying nobody never knows nothing nowhere nohow. But what we're really saying is that centralized knowledge is an impossible dream for overall economic development, but decentralized knowledge can work very well.

In sum:

1) Skeptics like me are not criticizing ALL knowledge, just saying some types are useful, and others are not. And so the best systems are those that can gather and process decentralized knowledge.

2) Well-functioning markets and democracy give people their own thermostats.

PS {Insert here your own favorite example of the centralized approach to global problems at Davos starting today.}

UPDATE 12:50pm on Please assume an idiot:

In response to commentators:

(1) have I ever heard of any situation where centralized knowledge plays a full or partial role? Yes

(2) does that change the above argument? No