Monday, June 21st, 2010

The Not-Knowing

"People will often make the case, 'We can't be that stupid, or we would have been evolutionarily wiped out as a species a long time ago.' I don't agree. I find myself saying, 'Well, no. Gee, all you need to do is be far enough along to be able to get three square meals or to solve the calorie problem long enough so that you can reproduce. And then, that's it. You don't need a lot of smarts. You don't have to do tensor calculus. You don't have to do quantum physics to be able to survive to the point where you can reproduce.' One could argue that evolution suggests we're not idiots, but I would say, 'Well, no. Evolution just makes sure we're not blithering idiots. But, we could be idiots in a lot of different ways and still make it through the day.'"
-Cornell professor of social psychology David Dunning talks to Errol Morris about what we know, what we don't know, and what we don't know we don't know. It sounds complicated, but it's pretty fascinating.


12 Comments / Post A Comment

"People will often make the case, 'We can't be that stupid, or we would have been evolutionarily wiped out as a species a long time ago.'"

Have these "people ever watched an episode of Maury?

NinetyNine (#98)

You guys really need to lighten up on the Tumblr-haterade.

saythatscool (#101)

That would explain why this laptop hasn't spit out any babies despite my continuous humping of it, 24/7.

deepomega (#1,720)

Well that, and you were wearing a condom.

saythatscool (#101)

I just don't like the chafing. I'm totally clean though.

Art Yucko (#1,321)

DAVID DUNNING: That's absolutely right. It's knowing that there are things you don't know that you don't know. [4] Donald Rumsfeld gave this speech about "unknown unknowns." It goes something like this: "There are things we know we know about terrorism. There are things we know we don't know. And there are things that are unknown unknowns. We don't know that we don't know." He got a lot of grief for that. And I thought, "That's the smartest and most modest thing I've heard in a year."

…………Hoo, Boy! "Smartest Guys in the Room!"

oldirtybassist (#3,630)

Can't be bothered to read, does he touch on the fact that there might be things we don't know we know? Cuz Rumsfeld left that part out.

I've always thought Rumsfeld got the wrong rap for that. Everybody make fun like he was all confusing and shit but it was just some ordinary, albeit rarely discussed, theory of knowledge stuff. He was really guilty not of being confusing, or even of deliberately being confusing to muddy the waters, what he really did was say "it's a confusing world so we just do what we want when we want to," which may also be generically and trivially true but is not sound leadership/governance.

Of course I don't mean you, Art, or anybody else here, all of whom, I'm sure, see it as I do, no, mostly I mean the mainstream comedy and news axis.

Art Yucko (#1,321)

@My #: Don't get me wrong- I agree with you, but I think that it wasn't so much Rumsfeld's tongue-twisters that riled the critical rabble as it was his barely-concealed arrogance in rubbing such theoretical a-b-c's in our noses! "We Simply Don't Know" usually works OK for most people!

I would also argue that quite a few of his hawkish defenders probably held this up as "See?! the man's a goll-darn GENIUS!"- but we all know how they'd react if a similar philosophical construct came from the lips of anyone from the current administration!

Absolutely. It'll be a long time before any Democrat tries to discuss the meaning of is again. It's always the ontologists who suffer most.

roboloki (#1,724)

an interesting read.
i still plan to piss on rumsfeld's grave.

laurel (#4,035)

Observation of the Dunning-Kruger Effect is a chief and mitigating pleasure of the American workplace. It's also a chief source of its discontents.

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