The Disaster of Knowing Too Much
DiscussionX4 Saturday, 4 July 2020 11 am to about 1:30 PM (end time flexible)
Venue: Brunelli Cafe 187 Rundle Street, Adelaide
About Focus Questions: a) Please read them before you come to the meetup. Think about them so you have more than "instant opinions" to offer. b) Feel free to add more focus questions. c) THE FOCUS QUESTIONS ARE JUST A MENU TO CHOOSE FROM. From this menu we can discuss whatever seems interesting. d) Focus questions are not intended to push one viewpoint! You can adopt any position you wish. We actually like friendly disagreement - it can lead to deeper understanding
1. Do you really want to understand a partner or best friend perfectly? Think, for example, of a man and woman who have been married for 20 years. Each knows the other's habits. Each knows exactly what the other is going to say at any given moment. They have no original conversation left, and no erotic surprises. Ideal? Surely one of the rewards of bringing up children is that they change in unexpected ways ...
2. Could a 'perfect' economic market actually survive? A perfect economic market is one where both the buyer and the seller perfectly understand the risks and benefits of the transaction. In such a market, for example, everyone will be completely uninfluenced by deceptive or emotional advertising. Everyone will perfectly understand the legal small print and rights they surrender every time they use Facebook etc. Everyone will understand the source and motivations behind all the information and propaganda they come across. And so on.
3. Would there still be 'culture wars' is everyone perfectly understood the lives, experiences and feelings of 'outsiders' ? - i.e. men Vs women, gay Vs straight, black Vs coloured Vs white, culture Vs culture, religion Vs religion Vs atheism, ugly people Vs beautiful people, rich Vs poor, locals Vs foreigners, educated Vs uneducated, young Vs old, strong Vs weak, sick Vs healthy, lazy Vs industrious, ambitious Vs lackadaisical, employed Vs unemployed, introvert Vs extrovert, successful Vs failures ... and so on.
4. If the properties and effects of Covid-19 had been perfectly understood in December 2019, how would countries and populations have reacted differently?
5. What is the effect of believing that everything worth knowing about a subject (or person) is already known? I have studied or worked in some university departments (going back decades) where the senior staff gave an impression that the main knowledge about a field was already known ('settled' was the word they used). It only remained for young researchers to fill in some details. Similarly, Francis Fukuyama wrote a book called "The End of History'. And similarly, many medical doctors I've met starting in the 1950s have seemed sure that medical knowledge at that time was almost complete.
6. What is your appetite for the unknown? Where will you venture mentally or physically down unfamiliar paths, and at what cost? e.g. Some people crave a completely predictable career path while others see that as a kind of living death.
7. Gambling is flirting with (usually) small unknowns. This is attractive to many people who might otherwise be rather cautious and conservative. Of course, if the outcome of a gamble is known, it is no longer a gamble and will attract no interest. What psychological need draws even timid or unimaginative individuals to take a small risk with gambling?
8. What is a healthy psychological and social balance among the conditions of ignorance, knowing, knowing what you don't know, and knowing that there will always be unknown unknowns?
9. What are some actual examples of becoming at personal risk by knowing too much? For example, a classic motivation for murder in criminal and/or political environments is to dispose of someone who "knows too much". Similarly, people who work in companies or governments often have to sign non-disclosure agreements. You can be at legal, or sometimes even physical risk by breaking these non-disclosure agreements.
10. In what ways might a society be paralyzed if everyone understood the risks and consequences of what they were doing? For example, immature youths often take risks without understanding reasons or consequences (which is why they are sent to fight wars). Also, a huge part of the voting public vote without understanding the risks and consequences of policies, or even the real characters of candidates.
Extra Reading, Comments and Links
Wikipedia (2020) "The End of History and the Last Man (1992), by Francis Fukuyama". @ https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_End_of_History_and_the_Last_Man
Thor May (20-May-2013) "265. The Limits of Education". Thor's Brief Ideas @ http://thormay.net/unwiseideas/aphorism.html [Quote: "Education does not make us educable. It is our awareness of being unfinished that makes us educable." ~ Paulo Freire, Pedagogy of Freedom. How much time have you invested in education? How much value has your education given you? How would you measure the value? I hung around universities and schools in the hope of growing my ideas. It took me way too long to realize that schools and universities were not there for that. In fact, most of the people who went to these places, and most of the people who taught in them, were not interested in growing ideas. They wanted dollars and respectability. Their aim was to become "finished", and sure enough a diploma nearly always finished them. Their curiosity died. As finished people they could get jobs, have babies and grow fat. Some of them (like doctors) took a long time to get their diplomas, but somehow this didn't make any difference. In the end, maybe 80% of them scraped by rather badly in their jobs from day to day, maybe 10% were so hopeless that they were a menace to everyone in the neighbourhood, and maybe the top 10% were ace mechanics, lawyers, salesmen, or whatever. Me, I've successfully remained unfinished, unemployable, curious, poor, and boring to all of the finished people around me".]
Steve Jobs (1974) "Stay Hungry, Stay Foolish". Wikipedia @ https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stay_Hungry_Stay_Foolish - [Quote: "In 2005, during his famous commencement speech at Stanford University, Steve Jobs quoted the farewell message placed on the back cover of the 1974 edition of the Whole Earth Catalog: "Stay hungry. Stay foolish."" ]
Wikipedia (2020) "The Dunning Kruger Effect" @ https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dunning–Kruger_effect
Jeff Stibel (December 11, 2009) "Why Wise Leaders Don’t Know Too Much". Harvard Business Review @ https://hbr.org/2009/12/why-wise-leaders-dont-know [Quote: "... we still spend our days analyzing information and falling into traps. Decisions are destroyed by over-analysis. The brain is not intelligent because of the sheer volume of data it can ingest, but for the way it can quickly discern patterns — and then guess the rest. The more information you pile on, the less likely you are to make educated guesses. But educated guesses spring from wisdom: all of your past experiences, knowledge and knowhow, coupled with the most recent information and analysis. In other words, wisdom comes from your gut.]
Hilary Duff (lyrics) @ https://www.azlyrics.com/lyrics/hilaryduff/dangeroustoknow.html
"Dangerous To Know"
Some secrets need to be kept
Some stories should never be told
Some reasons shouldn't be understood
They just might turn your blood cold
Who needs all the answers?
Who takes all the chances?
Who said the truth's gonna save you?
When the truth can be dangerous
'Know-all' dictionary definitions:
know-all (n) - [informal derogatory] a person who pretends or appears to know a great deal
know-all - someone who thinks he knows everything and refuses to accept advice or information from others
know-all [noun] (Informal) smart aleck, wise guy (informal), smarty (informal), clever-clogs (informal), clever Dick (informal), smarty-pants (informal), smartarse (slang), wiseacre, smarty-boots (informal), "She read an article by some cosmopolitan know-all".
Australian cultural note (Thor): "You're just a know-all" - One of the worst insults an Australian can offer you. 'Know-nothings' are much preferred as friends and colleagues.
The FindLaw Team (n.d.) "Ignorance of an offence is not a defence" in FindLaw website @ https://www.findlaw.com.au/articles/5785/is-ignorance-of-the-law-a-defence-in-relation-to-c.aspx #:~:text=Ignorance of an offence is not a defence&text=“Professor Glanville Williams said that,presumed to know the law. [Quote: "almost the only knowledge of law that many people possess is the knowledge that ignorance of the law is no excuse when a person is charged with an offence. This does not mean that people are presumed to know the law. Such a presumption would be absurd. Rather, it means that if a person is alleged to have committed an offence, it is both necessary and sufficient for the prosecution to prove the elements of the offence, and it is irrelevant to the question of guilt that the accused person was not aware of those elements that constituted an offence.”]
HG Legal (n.d.) "Ignorance of the Law - When Is It a Valid Defense?" [US law] HG Legal website @ https://www.hg.org/legal-articles/ignorance-of-the-law-when-is-it-a-valid-defense-52276 [Quote: HG Legal "There are certain exceptions to the rules when a person is ignorant of the law, and the court does permit this defense in certain select crimes or violations because of arcane or severely detailed laws that are confusing. Some actions will require penalties no matter what the crime is or if there is a certain outcome such as murder or theft".]
Brian Boutwell with Bo Winegard and Jonny Anomaly (May 2, 2017) "Is It Ever Better Not to Know?" Quilletter.com @ https://quillette.com/2017/05/02/ever-better-not-know/ [Quote: "we want to argue that over the long run it is better for humanity to know as much as we can about every possible question that might be asked. We think that the intrinsic beauty and instrumental benefits of the accumulated knowledge that we gain through scientific inquiry (in particular) is worth whatever adverse costs it might create in the short run". ]
Mikkael Sekeres (20 April 2017) "Sometimes It’s Better Not to Know" New York Times @ https://www.nytimes.com/2017/04/20/well/live/sometimes-its-better-not-to-know.html [Quote: "“I don’t know if I’m looking forward to being 98.” My 97-year-old patient revealed this to me during our first meeting in my clinic examination room. ... “To really figure out what’s going on with your blood counts, we would have to put you through a bone marrow biopsy…” I started to say. He waved his hand impatiently, cutting me off. “I don’t want it,” he said. “I don’t want to go through it.” I met his gaze for a few seconds and nodded in agreement ..."]
Debate.org (n.d.) "Is knowing better than not knowing?" @ https://www.debate.org/opinions/is-knowing-better-than-not-knowing . [57% say yes; 43% say no. See the website for arguments]
Jess Whittlestone (25 August 2015) "When the truth hurts" Aeon magazine @ https://aeon.co/essays/when-are-you-better-off-not-knowing-the-truth [Thor, comment: recommended article]
Index of past discussion topics & questions: http://thormay.net/unwiseideas/DiscussionTopics/DiscussionIndex.htm
Convenor : Thor May firstname.lastname@example.org Personal website (legacy) http://thormay.net
Articles http://independent.academia.edu/thormay (.. about 147 articles by Thor)