Note — Jul 04, 2021

Unknown Knowns

Two main ideas in this piece. First, the most useful part: “uncomfortable knowledge,” the knowledge we overlook because it is is in tension or outright contradiction with the simplified, self-consistent versions of that world we develop in our minds (associated here with unknown knowns).

The other is that science isn’t automatically for the public good, often funding seems to be available on that basis, that it will flow back to society, but the truth is that just how that will happen is disregarded. I’d tend to argue that the problem is more with capital taking over and maximizing profit independently of what society needs, not how science is funded, but a useful line of thought nonetheless.

William James observed that people cannot easily absorb every idea that challenges the coherence of their existing view, or else they would exist in a continual state of mental chaos