Do you know as much as you think? or think as much as you know?

It takes considerable knowledge just to realize the extent of your own ignorance. Thomas Sowell

We think we understand something until someones asks us to explain it, our brain does a good job and convincing it‘s human its super clever.

We understand less than we assume and are too busy to realise

I couldn’t possibly go on without quoting Donald Rumsfeld about the known unknowns, a quote so awesome it has it’s own wiki page

Reports that say that something hasn’t happened are always interesting to me, because as we know, there are known knowns; there are things we know we know. We also know there are known unknowns; that is to say we know there are some things we do not know. But there are also unknown unknowns — the ones we don’t know we don’t know. And if one looks throughout the history of our country and other free countries, it is the latter category that tend to be the difficult ones. Donald Rumsfeld

The brain is great at managing its human, jumping to decisions, letting it move on without worrying about what it doesn’t know, most of the time giving rough guesses, following everyone else or ignoring things.

To override your brains automatic answers, you need to do more thinking

People assume they are intelligent and understand how the world works but much of our knowledge is based on assumptions, facts or opinions we have heard and little actual knowledge. We have a rough idea how things work but without the ability to explain it simply.

Can you explain the commonly used things below?

  • how does a car work?
  • how does a mobile phone work?
  • what are vitamins, why should we take them?
  • why are vegetables good for us, why eat five portions a day?
  • what is plastic, where does it come from?

We use objects and tools (like this computer), we assume we know how they work. My computer has transistors, a motherboard, a battery and a computer works using binary operations of 1 and 0‘s but I don’t really know how it all works together. I have a rough idea, an inkling but when pushed to explain my perceived knowledge crumbles under scrutiny.

We have a black box understaning, we can use them but we don’t know how they work, this is fine for tools such as computers, mobile phones because we don’t need to know how they work to use them?

Where we have formed an opinion based on opinions or a derived knowledge this can be problematic because we use this information to decide but what if it’s nonsense.

We are warned that certain foods cause cancer (Bacon sandwiches, noooooooo) and individuals follow that advice without learning if it’s correct or why it’s true.

It’s assumed everyone should have a pension, yet few understand how pensions work or the alternatives? A decision which could affect years of their life is taken without full understanding of the consequences.

we adjust our diets to eat more vegetables but why are vegetables good, why should we eat five portions.

What are the motives behind the advice people give, often it’s to raise their profile, sell a book and not based on facts.

You can combat this by being curious and acknowledging you don’t know. Have a student mindset, be curious, ask questions to clarify, explain and learn.