Unknown Knowns

Yesterday’s post mentioned unknown unknowns. When I heard this matrix, it pained me that one of the quadrants was missing. Over the years, I have thought about that missing one and what it might mean.

Donald Rumsfeld in 2002 talking about weapons of mass destruction in Iraq a year before the invasion:

Reports that say that something hasn’t happened are always interesting to me, because as we know, there are known knowns; there are things we know we know.

We also know there are known unknowns; that is to say we know there are some things we do not know.

But there are also unknown unknowns – the ones we don’t know we don’t know.

And if one looks throughout the history of our country and other free countries, it is the latter category that tend to be the difficult ones.

What is interesting about this matrix is the lack of an “unknown known.” This we know, but we do not know that we know them.

  • Known knowns = are evaluated risks. There is confidence in they can be handled.
  • Known unknowns = are poorly evaluated risks. There is no confidence in handling them.
  • Unknown unknowns = are unevaluated risks.

Unknown knowns, I think, are evaluated risks which are ignored. They are our blindspots. The knowledge is there, but not used. Either we disagree with the assessment. Or we think they are too trivial to matter. Or we lie to ourselves about it. In any case they are left out of the calculus or justification of a decision. Possibly a high level administrator never sees them in making the decision.

Too much information overwhelms making a decision. Too little information risks a bad decision. What information is the right information is itself a decision. 🙂

Data > Information > Knowledge > Wisdom (ITIL)

TED Talk: On being wrong

A while back I pulled a post. It had to do with my wanting to be caught being wrong by my coworkers. I catch myself being wrong all the time, so I very much know my own fallibility. But, people take lack of confidence as lack of ability. Which means to get things done, one has to appear 100% confident even when 51%.

Kathryn Schulz discusses our feelings of rightness while being wrong. After watching this, I realized that I may have odd values. I enjoy discovering my being wrong about something and figuring out why I went astray. The path to knowing leads through not knowing. Finding out where I am wrong opens up new possibilities to learn something I should have already known.

I’m not worried about these concerns Schulz describes as conflicts with others not knowing (Ignorance), not making the same connections (Idiocy), or not making the decision I’d have made (Evil). I worry about people devaluing self-correction as much as I do. We all err and my feeling is I err more than most. I want a world where we strive to be the best we can intellectually be. I try to surround myself with people who seem more intelligent and with deep wells of knowledge outside areas I am competent. I have much to learn.

My favorite reason for having a smartphone is quickly accessing information. I will assert something in a conversation and while this is fresh on my mind have a doubt that I was correct. A concrete example. Last night, a friend told me her grandfather from Mexico was German. I asked if his parents migrated during WWI or WWII. So when I looked a bit later, I learned the German migrations to Mexico started in the mid-19th Century and continued through WWII. Every situation is a learning opportunity.

 (TED)

Most of us will do anything to avoid being wrong. But what if we’re wrong about that? “Wrongologist” Kathryn Schulz makes a compelling case for not just admitting but embracing our fallibility.

 

TED Talk: The currency of the new economy is trust

How would you describe my reputation in three words? My judgment, knowledge, and behaviors in various situations?

Back in the 1990s, the beauty of the Internet was we could disappear and be whomever we wanted. Wherever we went, almost no one knew who we were. Then web sites started providing accounts to sites and tracking who we were. Then web sites started sharing who we were. Now our reputation is going to follow us around on the Internet?

I guess it already does. I got my current job by doing something similar to the StackOverflow example used in the video. Helping others solve problems with the product developed into people trusting me. Measuring trust though. No existing rating system really works as well as I think it should.

I really dislike the ratings on most web sites because I do not really trust them. Authors don pseudonyms. Publishers make fake accounts. So I prefer something like Goodreads where people I actually know are the raters and whether or not to trust the rater is an easier task. Books that changed other people’s life? Meh. Restaurant I love? Other people find meh.

Guess I should go figure out how to trust the raters so eventually people can trust me trusting them.

If the video below does not work, then try The currency of the new economy is trust.

For 9/11

This seemed appropropriate to re-post today, the tenth anniversary of the event which inspired its need. The problems we are to overcome seem more prevalent and prominent today.

This statement was issued by the National Spiritual Assembly of the Baha’is of the United States in December 2001 as a response to the terror attacks of September 11, 2001. It first appeared as a full-page statement in The New York Times on December 21, 2001 and was subsequently reprinted in dozens of other newspapers around the country.

At this time of world turmoil, the United States Baha’i community offers a perspective on the destiny of America as the promoter of world peace.

More than a hundred years ago, Baha’u’llah, the founder of the Baha’i Faith, addressing heads of state, proclaimed that the age of maturity for the entire human race had come. The unity of humankind was now to be established as the foundation of the great peace that would mark the highest stage in humanity’s spiritual and social evolution. Revolutionary and world-shaking changes were therefore inevitable.

The Baha’i writings state:

“The world is moving on. Its events are unfolding ominously and with bewildering rapidity. The whirlwind of its passions is swift and alarmingly violent. The New World is insensibly drawn into its vortex….Dangers, undreamt of and unpredictable, threaten it both from within and from without. Its governments and peoples are being gradually enmeshed in the coils of the world’s recurrent crises and fierce controversies….The world is contracting into a neighborhood. America, willingly or unwillingly, must face and grapple with this new situation. For purposes of national security, let alone any humanitarian motive, she must assume the obligations imposed by this newly created neighborhood. Paradoxical as it may seem, her only hope of extricating herself from the perils gathering around her is to become entangled in that very web of international association which the Hand of an inscrutable Providence is weaving.”

The American nation, Baha’is believe, will evolve through tests and trials to become a land of spiritual distinction and leadership, a champion of justice and unity among all peoples and nations, and a powerful servant of the cause of everlasting peace. This is the peace promised by God in the sacred texts of the world’s religions.

Establishing peace is not simply a matter of signing treaties and protocols; it is a complex task requiring a new level of commitment to resolving issues not customarily associated with the pursuit of peace.

Universal acceptance of the spiritual principle of the oneness of humankind is essential to any successful attempt to establish world peace.

Racism, one of the most baneful and persistent evils, is a major barrier to peace.
The emancipation of women, the achievement of full equality of the sexes, is one of the most important, though less acknowledged, prerequisites of peace.

The inordinate disparity between rich and poor keeps the world in a state of instability, preventing the achievement of peace.

Unbridled nationalism, as distinguished from a sane and legitimate patriotism, must give way to a wider loyalty, to the love of humanity as a whole.

Religious strife, the cause of innumerable wars and conflicts throughout history, is a major obstacle to progress. The challenge facing the world’s religious leaders is to contemplate, with hearts filled with compassion and the desire for truth, the plight of humanity, and to ask themselves whether they cannot, in humility before their God, submerge their theological differences in a great spirit of mutual forbearance that will enable them to work together for the advancement of human understanding and peace.

Baha’is pray, “May this American Democracy be the first nation to establish the foundation of international agreement. May it be the first nation to proclaim the unity of mankind. May it be the first to unfurl the standard of the Most Great Peace.”

During this hour of crisis, we affirm our abiding faith in the destiny of America. We know that the road to its destiny is long, thorny and tortuous, but we are confident that America will emerge from her trials undivided and undefeatable.

The source of the above text of The Destiny of America and the Promise of World Peace.

Quotes That Make You Think: Collected for First Half 2011

More quotes for Quotes to Make You Think collected over the past year. Additional ones can be found under the Quotes tag.


The mediocre teacher tells. The good teacher explains. The superior teacher demonstrates. The great teacher inspires. — William Arthur Ward (1921-1994)

Making the simple complicated is commonplace. Making the complicated simple, awesomely simple, that’s creativity. — Charles Mingus

The greatest obstacle to love is fear. It has been the source of all defects in human behavior throughout the ages. — Mahmoud Mohammed Taha

The Seven Blunders of the World…

  1. Wealth without work
  2. Pleasure without conscience
  3. Knowledge without character
  4. Commerce without morality
  5. Science without humanity
  6. Worship without sacrifice
  7. Politics without principle

— Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi

The good writers touch life often. The mediocre ones run a quick hand over her. The bad ones rape her and leave her for the flies. — Faber. From Ray Bradbury’s “Fahrenheit 451”

The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes, but in having new eyes. — Marcel Proust

Time is a sort of river of passing events, and strong is its current; no sooner is a thing brought to sight than it is swept by and another takes its place, and this too will be swept away. — Marcus Aurelius

They say: “Laugh, and the world laughs with you.”
I say: “Laugh and they wonder what you are up to.”
— Unknown

The problem is not that there are problems. The problem is expecting otherwise and thinking that having problems is a problem. — Theodore Rubin

They may forget what you said, but they will never forget how you made them feel. — Unknown

Watch your thoughts; they become words.
Watch your words; they become actions.
Watch your actions; they become habits.
Watch your habits; they become character.
Watch your character; it becomes your destiny.
— Lao-Tze

The truth is, we make a mistake when we think that generations can be separated. The truth is you need me so that I have shoulders you can stand on, and we need you because you have shoulders somebody else can stand on. We are one. —Maya Angelou

The meek shall inherit the Earth. The rest of us are going to the stars. — Robert Heinlein

Be always at war with your vices, at peace with your neighbors and let each new year find you a better man. — Benjamin Franklin

If you are in the grip of the ego, you believe that by doing more and more you will eventually accumulate enough ‘doings’ to make yourself feel complete at some point in the future. It won’t. — Eckhart Tolle

It is unlucky to be superstitious. — Unknown

Courage is not the absence of fear, but rather the judgment that something else is more important than fear. — Unknown

Those who know the least will always know it the loudest. — Unknown

Too often we underestimate the power of a touch, a smile, a kind word, a listening ear, an honest compliment, or the smallest act of caring, all of which have the potential to turn a life around — Leo F Buscaglia

Being deeply loved by someone gives you strength, while loving someone deeply gives you courage. — Lao Tzu

Happiness is like a kiss… you must share it to enjoy it. — Unknown

Stopping at what we think is the limit of embarrassing behavior, we let others claim the credit, the opportunity, the job, the person we love from afar… What you perceive as prudent social caution is  probably limiting your life to about half its natural capacity. — Martha Beck

The secret of health for both mind and body is not to mourn for the past, worry about the future, or anticipate troubles, but to live in the present moment wisely and earnestly. — Buddha

Don’t tell me the sky’s the limit / There’s footprints on the moon — Brandt Paul

Thanks to Brian, Dusty, Ekstrom, Janice, Juls, Kyle, Mojan, Sherry, Tonya, and other friends who posted their favorite quotes.

Guard Dead Paper?

Seth said, “What we don’t need are mere clerks who guard dead paper.” Whenever, I read “mere”, “only”, or “just” as a descriptor, it makes me sad someone (even me) relies on obvious straw men.

Librarians already do more than guard dead paper. It just makes it easier to knock them down and kick them while they are down to portray them as such. Of course, the point is that Seth wants to see “… a librarian who can bring domain knowledge and people knowledge and access to information to bear…” which describes… every… librarian… I have ever known going back to age 5. Maybe growing up in and working in libraries gives me a different perspective than Seth?

The librarians I know…

  • Help patrons learn how to find information.
  • Learn quickly what the patron knows and how to connect the dots.
  • Have a master’s or doctorate in librarian (information) science but an undergraduate in something else because almost no where offers a bachelor’s in it.

How about this? “What we don’t need are mere scribes who throw words on paper. I want to see an author who can bring domain knowledge and people knowledge and communicate  information.” Yeah. Still just as demeaning without being at all helpful.

Research in Higher Ed

SC lawmakers want to professors at universities to teach more instead of doing research. An Associated Press article “SC budget would make professors teach more classes”:

College professors should be in the classroom teaching at least nine credit hours each semester because the state is having a tough time paying for college budgets, said state Rep. Murrell Smith, a Republican from Sumter.

“I think we need to have professors in the classroom and not on sabbatical and out researching and doing things to that effect,” Smith said.

The committee adopts temporary law changes that would be part of the state’s $5.2 billion budget. The full Ways and Means Committee will vote on those next week.

This is exactly the kind of thing I try to explain to my mom. Lawmakers are responding to the desires of parents. Parents hear the stories from their kids about being taught by teaching assistants. The parents feel like to get their money’s worth their kids should be taught by the professors instead. After all, the professors are the true content experts. (No one tells stories about the good teaching assistants unless they are better than the professor at teaching the class.) I agree interacting with professors is likely the best way for students to get access to most current and useful knowledge.

The thing which seems to be neglected is doing the research makes professors the experts students should know. Take away the research and over time one really ought to go back to the teaching assistants.

Good research will also bring in money to the university. Especially in sciences and technology, this money would go into updating research labs which exposes the students to stuff which makes them marketable to employers.

Competitive Edge

Found a Backupify blog on controlling employee access to social media odd. Preventing employees from discussing work on social media may help, but really you need to operate like the Manhattan Project. Sequester them in a town you build in the middle of nowhere, go through all of their correspondence paper or electronic, and control who they can physically see. People are going to talk about what they do.

Really, the issue is a business whose survival relies totally on secrets is one blabbermouth away from total destruction. The secrets are the problem not the employees. When owners and managers get to the point they cannot trust employees, the employees need to leave and take all their knowledge with them.

A Blogosphere Ecology

This is an article a former coworker, Bernie Gunder, helped me write for Focus On, a guest topic section of Portico, a Valdosta State University paper.

A Blogosphere Ecology

My name is Ezra Freelove, ‘99, and I’m a 29-year-old self-professed computer geek and technology professional who spends more hours in front of a computer than I care to admit. So what could possibly compel me to still sit in front of a computer when I go home? No, it is not only to do more work when I get home. I am also a blogger. Blogging took the world by storm a few years ago, me included. You may even know a blogger or two.

About five years ago a friend at UGA, Lacey Gerard, ’01, started me on this time consuming hobby. She showed me a web page she started at Pitas.com. I started a site there as well out of sheer curiosity. It was a good way to keep up with a friend 4 hours away in another city. Soon I found myself spending 10-20 hours a week blogging—reading friends’ blogs, posting on my own site and consuming all the blogosphere had to offer. My pastime has developed in to a mini obsession; at last count my blog subscriptions totaled more than 300. I relish reading blogs about the technology industry, science and geekdom in general. For instance, Mike McBride at http://mikemcbrideonline.com/ writes about his daily trials in “Life of a one-man IT department”. Just as in everyday life, my online interests vary. My armchair coaching of Manchester United is encouraged by http://fcmanu.blogspot.com/. Some wonder why I am not an attorney in copyright law based on how excited I get from reading Ernie the Attorney at http://www.ernietheattorney.net/ or http://www.freedom-to-tinker.com/. I watch for the wonderful photos posted at http://fiftymillimeter.com/ and http://wvs.topleftpixel.com/. At one point I even frequented a blog about conversations someone overheard while riding the bus every day. The one constant in my blogging experience has been maintaining and developing friendships.

My friends and I have found blogging to be a great way to keep in touch. Over the years we have consistently read and commented about each others’ entries. We have shared the changing events of our lives and provided eclectic insights on various topics. We both post tons of photos, share funny stories and post random thoughts. Leading up to their wedding, Lacey at http://lay-c.com/log/ http://gerards.tumblr.com/ and Myk (no longer active) both wrote extensively regarding all the work involved and excitement they felt. Another friend, George at http://lay-c.com/george/ http://www.toastforbrekkie.com/, works for NASA and provides great food for thought. Two recent alumna of VSU, Michelle and Sarah, both ’05, wrote about their struggles to find a good job after graduation and entering the real world. The majority of my friends who have blogs post about the every day things: going to class or work, redecorating their houses, taking a great trip somewhere, or attending a fun party the previous night. We are not alone. Every day millions of people make entries about the events going on in their lives.

Millions of people saying exactly what they want can some times create trouble. The Internet provides a false sense of anonymity or freedom that often we lack offline. In everyday life, we typically censor ourselves. This is not always the case online; sometimes people say things that get them into trouble. Mark Jen, author of http://99zeros.blogspot.com/, made national headlines for his getting fired from Google for the content of his blog. Some of my blogging friends and I have discussed the concepts of Freedom of Speech and how it applies to blogging. In the end, I believe the trick is really to not write anything you would not be happy for your mother or boss or child to read. Google saves a cache of web pages. So even should you delete a web page, others could possibly still read it. While everyone should be responsible about the personal and professional information they place on blogs, the benefits outweigh the risks.

Many non-bloggers think of blogs as only public diaries with entries about personal events but they often transition from online diaries into communication tools for the masses. Individuals in the center of major events often report on their experiences. I have read personal accounts of the towers falling on 9/11, bombs falling near homes in Baghdad, and flood waters rising in New Orleans. These accounts of important events provide a perspective otherwise difficult for traditional news media to provide. Blogs have made it possible for the average person to help shape society’s understanding of worldwide events.

Extremely popular blogs have evolved into online editorials on news events. These are run by professional bloggers who started off as regular bloggers but found they could make money by placing ads on their sites. They draw millions of readers by being an information resource. Popular sources of political commentary are http://wonkette.com/, http://dailykos.com/, and http://instapundit.com/. Blog style postings and polls of supporters have even become political or commercial marketing tools such as the Howard Dean campaign for the Democratic Party nomination for President of the United States popularized in early 2003. Even VSU uses blog technologies such as the news RSS feed at http://feeds.feedburner.com/ValdostaStateUniversity to inform others about events on campus.

Many blogs are much more specialized. As an information technology and higher education professional, I read a number of k-logs or knowledge logs. Other professionals describe their experiences creating, implementing, or using programs (whether software or educational). Important figures of the IT world, like Robert Scoble at http://scobleizer.wordpress.com/, post regarding where they see the industry headed. We not so important figures of the IT world often hang upon these gleanings as important revelations regarding where the industry is headed. As blogs penetrate every industry, they are becoming more and more valuable resources. They are quietly replacing magazines and journals for professionals to keep up in their industry.

The great theme of the Internet is bringing the world together through easier communication. Friends living at great distances often stay in touch by email. Blogs fit perfectly into this theme. Writers now have simple tools to publish their thoughts, syndication allows readers to keep track of favorite sites, and readers provide back comments. As with other Internet technologies, at first it was just the techies like me which embraced them. Next, the commercial companies embraced the use. This dispersed use of blogs widely and encouraged standardization so now the tools are widely available to anyone. So now is the best time to join the blogosphere. I hope to see you out there either as a reader or a writer.

About the Author

Ezra Freelove works for Valdosta State University in Enterprise Infrastructure Systems as a System Support Specialist. For the past 6 years he has managed various VSU web systems and applications such as the main web site, WebCT, and BlazeNet. On occasion he has even created web applications such as the election system used by Student Life for Homecoming.

In addition to work, he maintains a list of his various blogs at his personal web site located at http://ezrasf.com/. Please email < > with questions regarding this story.

About Focus On

Focus On is a forum in which guest writers examine various topics in their profession and/or field of study. The ideas conveyed in this essay do not necessarily express the views of Valdosta State University. Those interested in contributing an article or essay should e-mail with the subject line Focus On.

Sidebars/pullouts

  1. What’s a blog? A blog (weB LOG) is basically a journal that is available on the web. The activity of updating a blog is “blogging” and someone who keeps a blog is a “blogger.” Blogs are typically updated daily using software that allows people with little or no technical background to update and maintain the blog. The Blogosphere is the current state of all information available on blogs and/or the sub-culture of those who create and use blogs. http://www.matisse.net/files/glossary.html#B
  2. Supporting stats from Pew Internet
    By the end of 2004 blogs had established themselves as a key part of online culture. Two surveys by the Pew Internet & American Life Project in November established new contours for the blogosphere: 8 million American adults say they have created blogs; blog readership jumped 58% in 2004 and now stands at 27% of internet users; 5% of internet users say they use RSS aggregators or XML readers to get the news and other information delivered from blogs and content-rich Web sites as it is posted online; and 12% of internet users have posted comments or other material on blogs. Still, 62% of internet users do not know what a blog is. http://www.pewinternet.org/PPF/r/144/report_display.asp
  3. Blogging 101
    You could start a blog of your own in less time than it took to finish reading this article. Simply use the Blogger.com service at http://blogger.com/ and follow the instruction on the main page. If more control is your style but do not want to go through the trouble of installing and maintaining the blog software, then consider the free LiveJournal at http://www.livejournal.com/ or inexpensive TypePad at http://www.typepad.com/. If you lean towards true geekiness and want to install your own software, then turn to WordPress at http://www.wordpress.org/ and Movable Type at http://www.sixapart.com/movabletype/.
  4. Blogger Profile [Ezra]:
    My blog: http://www.livejournal.com/users/sneezypb/
    Years spent blogging: 5
    Top five favorite blogs
    http://lay-c.com/log/ http://gerards.tumblr.com/
    http://lay-c.com/george/ http://www.toastforbrekkie.com/
    http://fiftymillimeter.com/
    http://mikemcbrideonline.com/blogger.html
    http://www.scienceblog.com/cms