In one of my previous posts, I wrote about hindsight bias and how it affects our perception of surveillance and whether it would significantly improve security. Turns out, hindsight bias is significant once again. In chapter 3 (and throughout the book) Singh provides examples where he makes breaking what would’ve once been considered an unbreakable cipher look easy, obvious even. This leads us to believe that these techniques should’ve been obvious in the first place. However, that’s just our own overconfidence and hindsight bias talking. In general, we tend to assume that things are more predictable and more obvious than they actually were, and that we “knew it all along”. Additionally, we overestimate what we currently do know, and how well we are able to do things independently before we are asked to do them. For example, when students study for tests, they’ll read a question and think to themselves “Oh, I know that”, but when asked that very question on a test, draw a blank because they really didn’t know the answer – they just assumed they did because they maybe recognized the concepts or vocabulary. When we see these examples and think they should’ve been obvious, we have the privilege of hindsight and someone else’s guidance.

Also, it’s important to note that Singh is writing some of these examples himself, and it’s much easier to decode something you encoded in the first place. These examples are also meant to be examples, and were therefore designed with that in mind. We’re supposed to read these examples and understand how the decryption is working and find it logical – that’s what a good explanation is supposed to do.