Sunday, April 10, 2011

Is it so difficult to appreciate that there are things we do not know that we do not know?

(I will justify shortly that) to most people, the set of things in the world is divided as follows (not to scale):

Things I do not know Things that I know
Figure 1

For the past thirty years or so, I have always assumed that the set of things is as follows (not to scale):

Things (I know that) I do not know
Things that I know
Things that I do not know that I do not know
Figure 2

I spend most of my waking hours tranfering things from the yellow zone to the pink zone.  It is only too easy to lapse into Figure 1 thinking if I lower my guard.

Why do I think most people think like in Figure 1? I draw this conclusion from the ridicule poured on Donald Rumsfeld from almost 100% of the press. Some thought it was poetry! The BBC called it bizzare.  I don't know whether to believe that the British Plain English Campaign doesn't understand what Mr Rumsfeld was saying.  It appears that people do not realize there is a Figure 2.

To me what Mr Rumsfeld said couldn't be clearer.  If only journalists didn't forget the sets and Venn diagrams they learned in grade 7 or 8.

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