"You don't know what you don't know until they tell you that you don't know."
This is my version of Catch 22, the most elegant and brilliant catch ever.
There is a catch to everything. Life's style is that she likes to let you think you have it under control, then spring it on you. And you answer, in chorus, "I didn't know...." Sometimes, for effect, you add, "I wish someone would have told me that before," or one of the other vintage responses when you learn something new. Your tone may be surly, spiteful or hurt. Sometimes, upon learning something you didn't know that you didn't know, you respond, "Well, I would have done things differently," had I known.
Had I known.
Lots of folks revise their personal history when they learn things, not wanting to be revealed as unknowing. "I never voted for Richard Nixon," people exclaimed after he resigned. "I could tell he was a crook just by looking at him. I never trusted the man." Nixon won in a landslide with few people admitting to voting for him.
First impressions cause a lot of problems with people's memories. That's why flip flopping on a stance is very important as a tool - keep the people unknowing and you'll have the world in the palm of your hand. Many Republicans believe that Ronald Reagan never raised taxes because he created a wonderful sound bite and didn't raise taxes at first, and made a big deal about it. His later tax hikes are recorded history but people can toy with your memory by invoking other memories when he did other things, introducing doubt about what you know and you don't know. Lawyers on television and movies love doing this during cross examination, confusing witnesses about what they know and remember, causing the known they were so certain of to become unknown.
Yes, we could make a lot of money with a wayback machine that takes us back to a critical juncture where the missing piece of information would have been ideal so we can change our decision. "Had I known she was a serial killer, I would not have asked her to marry me."
We're beseiged by unknowns that are often known but hidden, unknown to us, but known to others, sometimes known by others but disavowed by them - "I never said that" - "But isn't that you on this video?" - "You're taking that out of context" - and we're often wondering what we don't know that we should know, but the worst situations are those where you think you know because you've been told you know but there's a whole aspect about knowing that you didn't know about, so you couldn't even ask the right questions.
Companies like to bombard us into a state of unknowing in the fine print of their contracts and reams of legalese so that when you go to them and tell them, "I'm fed up with your company, I'm terminating the contract," they can reply, "Okay, how do you want to pay your termination fee, by check, charge, or mortgage on your house? We accept all major credit cards, including a few that haven't been introduced yet." And you, taken back by the response, reply, "This is outrageous. I'm not paying that." "Well, you must pay that to terminate your contract," the company smugly replies.
Donald Rumsfeld, once upon a time President Dubya Bush's Secretary of Defense, understood the knowns and unknowns, reflectively waxing upon them during press conferences and questions and answer sessions. Of course, he had a corporate background, having been a CEO before returning to the government field. Governments, corporations, and politicials are masters of the known and the unknowns.
The Internet is the realm of the known and the unknown, the perfect respository for the known and the unknown because the known can be the unknown by one word. "Scientists agree that climate change is a concern for the future" becomes "Scientists disagree that climage change is a concern for the future," because, you know, they found one scientist willing to say, "I don't know. There are too many known and unknowns to know." The changed statement gives an impression that the majority of scientists don't agree.
That's important. For years, cigarette makers claimed cigarettes didn't impact on people's health. They had doctors, five pack smokers a day, that went before committees, wrote papers, and presented testimony that, hey, smoking is good for you. It certainly won't harm you. Now there seems to be some evidence to the contrary.
Modern life is always forcing us into fluxing between the known and the unknown. Does our insurance cover that? How much will this cost? Someone tells us, "Your fribilizer has degenerated the boristanzer, causing an imbalance between the bobcha and your mantra. We need to fix it."
They could be talking about your computer, car, health or health insurance, property taxes, smart phone contract, the economy or fracking. And if you're like me, you go, you're at the station with a ticket but unsure of where you're going or what time it is and you ask, "What?" Then you try to figure out what the hell they mean. And you spend days and hours learning more so you can make an intelligent decision until you forget what was said and ask, "Did he say it degenerated the boristanzer or regenerated the boristanzer? Is it boristanzer with an 's' or a 'z'? Are they different?"
Or you surrender. You reply, "I don't know. Do what you need to do."
Sometimes the other nods, and goes off and does things to your humperdumper and everything works well. And you feel relief, because, well, that's over with. You were lucky, you think, to find someone who knew what they were talking about. And they seemed to do a good job. Everything is working again.
Because you never know...they could have been bullshitting you.
[T]here 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.”
Causes Michael Seidel Supports
Kiva, Women's International League for Peace and Freedom, Propublica.org, Doctors Without Borders, GreaterGood.com