Knowledge and its support

This is  a common mistake, a mistake that I do, and I do it even now after many years of training… Taking things that I know for granted…  What facts support our knowledge? What resources do we use? Who are the authority figures behind current paradigm? What was the previous paradigm?

Probably nothing is truly known. We have some very good understanding of what is most likely to happen and why it happens, and then we learn that it is a part of much larger and partially unpredictable pattern or erroneous paradigm . We are outraged and insecure. So we point out how and where we learnt what we know and proof our control of the knowledge. Right?

Well, almost. It takes a lot of effort to learn the “support” of every link: where and when we learnt it. When we learn cognitive psychology or similar experimental science we are taught to remember the experiments that build up the body of knowledge. In mathematics and similar theoretical sciences we need to remember the first people or article that came out with proof. However if we read a book, it is very hard to find the actual support for every paragraph within the book. The best we can do is remember the relevant chapters of the book an remember what we read there. With information we learn in blogs, TV or other mass media the situation is even worse. We cannot afford to trust them and we cannot afford to check everything they write, so there is a limit to how much we can trust them and reference them. And finally there are our friends that have no doubt that they know everything  and much better than the obscure bloggers, yet they refuse to tell their sources and request total trust. All I can say here is choose your friends and your enemies wisely, and try to cross-reference their comments.

It is not that what I am telling here is really new for you, yet you will probably be surprised if I will ask you to remember for each link between visual markers the support (the source of this knowledge) of this particular link. Arguably this doubles the amount of information we need to learn anyway. Moreover, since the “support” is based on names of obscure people we will need to spend extra-time to learn about these people. Believe me, I hate this part of our training even more than you do. However, the evidences that support this approach are piling up. Up am meeting several highly effective professionals who drive their power from knowing “who is who” in their area of expertise and spending significant amount of time to learn better the main characters. Moreover, when I ask these people how they know what they know I am immediately referenced to the proper articles, which are remembered very well. This memory is very specific: the same professionals cannot find their keys and forget their wife’s birthdays. Yet the people who find it important for their career to learn the support for their knowledge consistently reach very high degree of professional success.

So I started to doubt retroactively everything I know. For each piece of knowledge I ask myself “OK, where have you learnt it?” To my amazement most of the time the sources are highly unreliable: I cannot find the proper articles and books. I can remember holding the book in my hand and what I was wearing when reading it, yet I cannot find the book on the internet. And this is another point: what you cannot find in Google basically does not exist.

Socrates allegedly said “I know that I know nothing “. Unless we make the extra effort to remember the support of our knowledge, we may easily find ourselves in a very similar situation. For all practical uses justified true belief is knowledge, so make sure to have proper justifications.


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