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Learning stuff you know you don’t know July 17, 2009

Posted by mwidlake in Uncategorized.
6 comments

A Friday, off-topic post :-)

OK, how many people remember the much maligned speech by Donald Rumsfeld about {and I paraphrase} “things we know, things we don’t know, things we know we don’t know and things we don’t know we don’t know”.

If you want, you can watch the dear chap himself saying it here. {I’m afraid this is a slightly maligning version, but not as bad as most I found}.

Leaving aside it was Mr Rumsfeld who said it and thus accounted for some of the endless scorn poured upon the speech, I think it was a very, very valid observation by his speech writers. I always think that people laughing at the “idiocy” of the speech have missed something. The idea is nothing new, Henry David Therou for example said

“To know that we know what we know, and that we do not know what we do not know, that is true knowledge.”

{an excellent quote, for which I thank Wikipedia and Google  – I knew I did not know any good quotes but I knew they existed and I just did not know them}.

I think it is very valid to realise you don’t know stuff in your chosen area of knowledge but that you recognise that lack and that there is thus more to learn. It also means that people who do already know an awful lot in one area of knowledge, they probably have gaps you can help fill. So speak up when you think you know something, even to acknowledged experts. It gives you a really warm glow inside when you do teach somone you regard as an expert something new. And you know what? Most of those experts will be really appreciative for you even trying, let alone succeeding.  

I could of course  be saying all this to give my utterences about not knowing stuff a veneer of philosphical respectability, but I really do believe and have done for many years now, that we should be able to say we do not know something and it be respected that we acknowledge that gap. I don’t take glory in my stupidity {for even my ego could not hold up under all that amount of glory :-) } but I like to feel that if I can be honest about my stupidity I can thus be honest about my knowledge, and be quietly happy with what I know and what I can do. 

OK, so none of this is specific to Oracle but it is no less valid for being applicable to all knowledge. I guess I’m trying to say that I think it is OK {and should be publically acceptable} to admit not knowing stuff and it is equally OK and good for all of us to try and teach others, even if we feel individually that we maybe do not have that much to add.  

What prompted this philosophical outpouring? I found out today that I don’t even know how to peel a banana. And probably most of you don’t either. But Monkeys do.

This is the video.

Go on, watch the video, the boss is in a meeting. It makes you think….

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