27 Nov 2010

Known unknowns

There are known knowns; there are things we know that we know. There are known unknowns; that is to say, there are things that we now know we don’t know. But there are also unknown unknowns; there are things we do not know we don’t know. — (former) United States Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld

Of late, I have been noticing that I encounter a variety of unknowns in my head every day. These unknowns range from technical jargons, to musings about how certain things work, to stuff which I know only on a surface level but nothing more. Most of these are usually harmless things which I am curious to find out more about – one recent example being the differentiation between the usages of the words would and will and where to use which.

On the other hand, I noticed that there are also quite a few things which I should already know well about, but continue to ring a “I should look up on this more” bell in my head frequently. A few weeks back I decided to externalise these niggling unknowns by noting them down. In just a couple of weeks I have amassed some twenty of them. In doing so, I have been able to realise the shortcomings in my knowledge of many things which I thought I knew well. I’m probably going to allot myself some twenty minutes every day to go down that list and brush up on my ignorance. Atleast the ones I know of.

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