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Those we don’t know we don’t know or why specialization is the largest downside on this planet


Studies that say that one thing hasn’t occurred are at all times fascinating to me, as a result of as we all know, there are “identified knowns”; there are issues we all know we all know. We additionally know there are “identified unknowns”; that’s to say we all know there are some issues we have no idea. However there are additionally “unknown unknowns” — those we don’t know we don’t know.

Donald Rumsfeld, U.S. Secretary of Protection,
Protection Division Briefing on February 12, 2002

I’ve drawn a diagram of this constellation under. I like drawing diagrams as a result of they usually level out issues we miss. Issues we miss may cause all kinds of hassle. On this case what was lacking from Rumsfeld’s assertion (and considering?) had been “unknown knowns”. These are that which we don’t know however which we might know, as a result of different folks know them. “Unknown knowns” are additionally known as ignorance and are sometimes a consequence of certitude or religion.

All the quad appears like this

unknownunknowns.jpg The vertical axis offers along with your data (or your group’s data) vs different folks’s data. This axis must be simple to get a deal with on besides in these circumstances when somebody thinks he is aware of kind of than he really does which might trigger some confusion as to the place the true zero lies. On the prime, we’ve got the issues that you recognize. On the backside, we’ve got the issues that you simply have no idea however different folks (may) know. The horizontal offers with the world or actuality. Some issues are identified about actuality similar to the present climate, the previous historical past of inventory costs, the legislation of gravity, and so forth. Some issues about actuality are unknown similar to future rates of interest, future authorities insurance policies, future know-how, and so forth.All people has a private diagram. As an example, your data could also be my ignorance; what could be a shock to me could also be a prediction to you on account of your larger grasp of both private data or data about actuality. The larger your private data is, the much less ignorant you may be however extra importantly, the extra predictions it is possible for you to to make and the less surprises you’ll expertise.
One notably profound supply of private ignorance and surprises is specialization. Specialization drives an individual into the higher proper nook the place he is aware of all the pieces there may be to learn about nothing. Individuals could also be shocked to study this however regardless of usually being requested their opinion on present occasions actors typically don’t know a lot about politics whereasthey do know quite a bit about appearing 😛 . The identical goes for different vocations. A extra severe instance could be that of the scholar. Students or researchers are vocationally rewarded for his or her productiveness as measured by the variety of publications in prestigious journals. Whereas there may be plenty of deal with work-life steadiness and entertaining various hobbies, those that focus 100% of their power on their specialization finally will get the promotion. This has result in plenty of ultra-focused intellectuals every driving a specialised understanding of a slim fraction of the world however few tying all of it collectively.The result’s specialists which have a tough time speaking to the broader public and even to one another. There are not any singly organizing people which can be able to studying all the pieces there may be to know anymore. As an example, there was philosophers. Philosophers would take into consideration the world. Philosophers then break up into pure philosophers and “different”. The pure philosophers later turned mathematicians, physicists, chemists, astronomers, geologists, biologists, … and never so lengthy after that these break up up as nicely. Thus in the present day it is rather laborious to position data into context.

Subsequently placing issues in context is just not accomplished by people. Relatively it’s accomplished by procedures or delegation by a system. Now the issue is that specialization has brought about an angle the place it’s implicitly assumed that there’s at all times a “they” that may resolve any downside. World warming? “They” will consider one thing! Flu epidemics? “They” will consider one thing! Working out of oil? “They” will consider one thing!

The issue is that there is no such thing as a “they” in control of the world. “They” might be able to repair remoted issues like a gasoline chromatographic evaluation of ear wax, however “they” aren’t in a position to repair systemic downside. Programs have inertia. A lot of inertia. Did you ever surprise why English as taught in colleges focuses the analyses of texts usually perpetrated by loopy folks, you recognize, writers, reasonably grammar or writing copy or journalistic articles or just letters? College students are primarily imitating English professors, who’re imitating medieval monasteries, who’re imitating historic Greek philosophers (learn extra right here). Structure is one other instance. Why do large establishments have Doric columns imitating stone facades of Greek temples which once more imitate wooden pillars of easier huts? Why do universities nonetheless have seminars relationship from a time when communication was so gradual and costly that college students couldn’t afford their very own textbooks? It’s systemic inertia and the rationale for the systemic inertia is that there is no such thing as a “they” in control of operations.

This turns into a giant downside in relation to future planning. As an example, monetary planning is generally primarily based on historic returns regardless that everybody warns us that previous outcomes are not any assure of future returns. The query we should ask ourself is just not what the identified unknowns are e.g. whether or not future returns of the inventory market indices are 4%, 8% or 12%, however reasonably what are the unknown unknowns? Will democracy nonetheless exist in 30 years? Will the greenback be value something? Will barter reasonably than financial change be the main focus? Will everyone be entrepreneurs reasonably than staff? Will world conflict III happen? Will folks be anticipated to develop their very own meals or will meals be supplied within the type of soylent inexperienced by pipeline? Few retirement plans within the type of 401(ok)s, IRAs, SEPs, and so forth. make provisions for this, as a result of monetary planners are, sadly, consultants in monetary planning.

There are two methods to pursue right here. The snug one is to observe the gang and do what everyone else does. That is protected within the psychic sense. Be aware as an example, that since very many individuals had been silly and speculated in everlasting progress of actual property costs they did get a bailout. People don’t fare this nicely as a result of democracy cares much less about people. Nonetheless, people are nimbler and extra agile than crowds, so this makes for another technique which is the one I choose. However this technique is just not all about accumulating 1,000,000 {dollars}. It’s also concerning the scenario the place cash doesn’t purchase you something.


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Initially posted 2008-03-17 07:12:24.



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