Known Unknowns vs Unknown Unknowns: Two Sides of Ignorance - Deepstash
Known Unknowns vs Unknown Unknowns: Two Sides of Ignorance

Known Unknowns vs Unknown Unknowns: Two Sides of Ignorance

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Known unknowns and unknown unknowns

Known unknowns and unknown unknowns

  • Known unknowns are the things we know we don’t know about (space travel, brain surgery, etc.) We can learn anytime about them but we’re not really expected to know about them.
  • Unknown unknowns are the things we think we should know about, but we actually don’t (how a bicycle works or what makes a toilet flush). These are common, everyday things we take for granted and assume we know how they function.


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Illusion of explanatory depth

We think understand complex phenomena with far greater precision and depth than we rally do. We are are subject to an illusion.

Believing we know more than we actually do can lead us to prejudice without us even knowing.


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The ignorance of our own ignorance

The main reason for the ignorance of our own ignorance is that we don’t need to know how everyday things work. They just do. We are used to seeing them wherever we go.


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Sharing knowledge makes us think we are smart

Immediate access to knowledge makes us all feel like experts, when in reality we're not. And we certainly don’t consider ourselves to be stupid when we can research anything.

But it’s not just the rapid access to information that makes us fall for the Illusion of Explanatory Depth, it’s the way we consume this information.


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Superficial information consumption

We browse the top of news items, we choose clickbait-y headlines and we allow tweets to inform us of global political moves. We tap into viral videos, we listen to soundbites and agree with memes.

This is a superficial way of ingesting knowledge. We never really deep dive into a topic. As a result, we know a lot of stuff, but not in that much detail: we know a little bit about a lot.


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