July 10, 2008

Know

Posted in Life tagged , , , at 11:15 pm by Andrew McMillen

I don’t know much. But I’m not comfortable with that. Which is why I endeavour to know more every day.

There’s nothing wrong with not knowing if you’re honest with yourself and others. Not knowing should not cause embarrassment. Not knowing should be reframed as an opportunity to learn a new skill or new information.

Before this week, I didn’t know Metcalfe’s Law. I didn’t know the capital of Uruguay. I didn’t know about petabytes.

Not knowing can be difficult. I know. Difficulty becomes problematic when a paralysing fear of new information takes hold and you resign yourself to not knowing. You’re caught within your own self-concept loop.

Picture a fruit tree. Imagine the fruit as knowledge. There’s ten thousand low hanging fruit that just about anyone can reach. They taste fine. You can easily survive on eating them for the rest of your life. Many do.

But just out of reach are countless, considerably more fulfilling fruit. With a little extra effort and determination, you can climb the tree and feast on tastier knowledge. This is easier than ever before.

Knowing can be dangerous. A voracious desire to know can intimidate those who are comfortable with not knowing.

The Bayesian notion suggests that we should constantly examine our circumstance and direction against new information. I’m reminded of John Boyd’s OODA Loop.

Observe. Orient. Decide. Act. If you don’t want to know more, enjoy those low-hanging fruit.

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4 Comments

  1. Jayleigh said,

    There is SO MUCH truth to your post. Wow. And thank you for sharing.

    I have an aunt who doesn’t care to learn one thing. She’s fine with her life just like it is. I find I am actually very relaxed around her, and not striving so hard to learn more/be more/do more. But sometimes it irritates me that she doesn’t seem to have goals beyond taking care of her family and eating ice-cream every night while watching TV.

    Thanks a lot for this.

  2. globalized said,

    Haha, I go away for a weekend and come back to so many great things to read and try and absorb.

    I think it is that constant availability of knowledge offered by the blogs I frequent which I enjoy the most… a product, I reckon, of the networking aspect. So often, I find a word or phrase or general philosophy which I don’t quite understand (or have never even been exposed to), but with the prevalence of links or at least the accessibility of Wikipedia and Google, an explanation is never too far away.

    “Not knowing should be reframed as an opportunity to learn a new skill or new information.” Indeed.

  3. globalized said,

    So, I’ve actually processed a bit more of what you posted on… wanted to share some things with you.

    1). Since seeing the OODA loop mentioned on your blog, I’ve seen it referenced in a few places, and actually started applying it to past scenarios in my life… I can totally see where it is of high value to understand and utilize.

    2). I don’t know if you’ve seen this before, but if you are still trying to understand Bayesian Theory, Eliezer Yudkowsky offers a great primer: http://yudkowsky.net/bayes/bayes.html — I still struggle, but it helps.

    3). I read Gladwell’s ‘The Tipping Point’ a few weekends ago, and I think I enjoyed it, the premise at least, more so than ‘Blink.’ I would like to see it updated though, to include greater analysis of Web 2.0 and refute some more recent criticism. Have you read any of Gladwell’s articles in “The New Yorker” or seen his TEDTalk? Definitely worth checking out.

  4. […] the mindless drivel which passes as one’s secondary education, I revel in being exposed to a myriad of new ideas.  Discovering like-minded individuals with whom I share coping strategies.  Being asked serious […]


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