You Don’t Know What You Don’t Know

I usually dislike truisms like this (hey reflexive property, x=x, wow, who knew), but in this case I think it’s interesting to look at the concept of insufficient information when problem solving (you know, what all of us do all our lives). You can never have “enough” information, and your mind is subjective, so what might be “good” or “enough” for you might be bad or insufficient for someone else.


Today I saw a pen on the floor. It was a pen that my son had opened and put the cap in his mouth (a choking hazard). The day before I had taken the cap and pen and put them out of reach of him. To see the pen on the floor amongst his toys made me upset and I immediately asked “Did you put the pen back?” or “Why did you put the pen back?” (in a snarly/angry tone) to my wife. In my mind, there were only 2 people that could have put the pen back, myself or my wife and I knew I didn’t put the pen back so I assumed she did. This was wrong. There was ANOTHER possibility, there was more information. In fact this was a pen identical to the pen from yesterday, there were 2 pens! It’s logical that however the first pen got among his toys this one did too. I hadn’t concerned that, based on my (limited) information, I had made the logical assessment.


This problem is a HUGE problem when scaled. WW1 is a great example. All of the major powers could claim they were acting “defensively” and that “if there was going to be a war, now was a logical time to do it” (well, maybe not Russia). My point is that acting logically, which is I agree the most sensible approach to life, doesn’t always give the best results, and ESPECIALLY not when information is limited. We all need to make decisions, and make them relatively quickly, but for BIG things (like long-term, life-changing decisions) it’s wise to gather A LOT of information to aid the decision.


Logic though is sort of a trap. It’s like, if humans were completely logical they would be very easy to predict/manipulate (more so then they already are). I think that’s part of the message of Dune. Machines, in their cold logic, destroy humanity since humans are static/predictable to a fault (their own destruction). The good thing about humans is that we have illogical local phenomenon that are based on logical long-term outcomes (i.e. natural selection). I might think something is a bad idea, like, I don’t want to have sex with anyone, it’s a hassle and it can be frustrating, etc. but biologically my body is saying “no, no, you WANT to do this and there will be chemical rewards if you do.” I will stop for now, but leave you (the reader) with the concept of incomplete information. What about your life could you add some more information to in order to produce more favorable results? What should you read up on? What ARE your big decisions?

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