Knowns and Unknowns

It has been stated that there are known knowns, such as these three, and known unknowns, such as how these three may have arisen and if by happenstance or design, and finally unknown unknowns, things we have never imagined and may never know due to lack of knowledge or to our mistaken belief that effects correctly attributed to those unknowns are caused by known intermediaries, real or fantastical. 

Then there are unknown knowns. These may be truths that we as a group know but fail to recognize or to understand. Or they may be truths unknown by some or even most of us yet known and understood by others; truths such as those unknown to most young children that accrue with sexual maturity and adulthood, those unknown to much of the general public but known by health and other professional experts that are entrusted with the public’s well-being, unknown information technology responsible for the proliferation of social networking connecting people around the globe on a day to day basis, but understood and managed by a small fraction of a percent of those people. And there are the perennially unknown conspiracy truths and phobias that are known to be untrue, sometimes unfortunately only by the maligned few.

This last phenomena, of the unknown knowns, can lead to the Dunning Kruger effect, a condition of cognitive bias in which individuals newly exposed to a subject—but with little knowledge beyond the superficial topic—imagine that they have considerably more command of the matter than they do. Precisely because they are neophytes and have had little exposure to the field, a large portion of the knowledge held by experts on the subject remain unknown unknowns to them. Having learned some facts and with a limited level of social verification of the knowledge, they imagine themselves as having an unwarranted level of expertise. Thinking they know all or at least most of the knowns, they have little appreciation of the breadth of the known knowns, the depths of the known unknowns and even less of the rare height of possibilities of the unknown unknowns of the field. 

For those who have a wider range of experience with the subject, who have an understanding of its requisite learning processes in addition to simply a knowledge of facts, the field appears to be more vast and their perceived knowledge more limited. They  find more questions to the field than answers, and the list of unknowns, those known unknowns, grows. Yet even here, as the expert grasp of the subject is perceived to have matured by those experts, with fewer recognized unknowns and with the unknown unknowns of the field deemed to have diminished asymptotically, rote indoctrination can  raise its ugly head, reinforced by an attendant self-satisfaction and recognition from the group’s affiliating members. But learning which leads to understanding is a humbling experience, an awakening to the awesome complexity found in Nature, in Life. 

Such cognitive bias is obvious in the realm of politics in which individuals elected to public office largely on the basis of broad-brushed emotional appeals to targeted voters must craft solutions to problems that require in depth analysis and understanding of largely macroeconomic and psycho-sociological problems involving the nuanced application of negotiation, adjudication, and statecraft; this often with little intellectual comprehension of the former or experience of the latter. 

As stated, this effect can happen as well to experts, particularly if they specialize in a field that sees itself as having a greater purview of the domain of fundamental human knowledge than is warranted. Such bias can result in the emergence on the part of the general public of anti-elitist attitudes toward experts and high status individuals laying claim to conclusive ‘truths’ of their disciplines or social positions, based on naive assumptions and conclusions on subjects essentially outside those disciplines and positions—especially when the experience of that public knows otherwise. This in turn contributes to a prejudice on the part of such public against expert knowledge in general and in favor of ‘common sense’ solutions to problems. 

In the absence of requisite alternatives, this can lead paradoxically to a blind adherence to anti-elitist ‘experts’; this, when what is most needed are true experts and honest leaders. This is particularly the case when the essential unknown unknowns on antagonistic sides of an argument are ill understood or, if known, intentionally obfuscated by their respective proponents, resulting in a cross purpose of communication. 

Nowhere is this cultural dialectic more evident than in the western democracies, focused in the USA, where the traditionally intertwined wisdoms of metaphysics, as found in an understanding of individual spiritual experience and economic initiative, contest the scientific understandings of physics and biology rising from the technological innovations of that traditional, investigative experience and initiative. The experts of the technological revolution, at least those that lay claim to a fundamental understanding of the quantum high ground, are often lacking in appreciation of the traditional, metaphysical logic that grounds their innovative expertise and in turn embrace an anti-theist ethos, just as those expert in the religious and commercial traditions of enlightened life choices are too often afraid to try to understand the true metaphysical motivations that scaffold their non-essential beliefs. 

In short, the first group of experts fail to grasp the fact that, despite the success of their experience and knowledge gained, any and all change arises from the application of a logical intention which may be an unknown unknown and essentially unknowable, while the second group fail to grasp that what they do know and even rightly expect to find of the known unknowns does not preclude the eventual realization of unknown unknowns that may be remarkably different from what they expect to have revealed. The anti-elitist motivation of each side may be cultivated by the pronouncements of expert revelations, mundane or ecclesiastical, of the other side from among their respective amateurs, who are necessarily inexpert. The solution, however, to the questions posed and answers proposed by both sides, can only be found in an expert synthesis of both and this will necessarily be an elite solution.

We will look at three instances of this professional bias at work in the fields of political economy, physics, and metaphysics, along with novel responses to such bias, via: an unbiased analysis of the relationship of capital and consumption goods production, valuation, and expenditures and the implications of that analysis on government policy, both monetary and fiscal; a simple modeling of physical phenomena, with significant technological implications, that quantitatively predicts, with accuracy and precision, the observed quantum scale phenomena gleaned from the past century of experimentation and relates it to the observations of cosmological expansion on the astronomical scale; a statement based on my individual experience of the inherent identity of scientific and religious understanding based on an essential common logical foundation.