Not-knowing discussion #1: Introducing not-knowing (summary)
This is a summary of the first session in the InterIntellect series on not-knowing, which happened on 19 Jan 2023, 2000-2200 CET.
All session summaries.
The reading for this first session was an introduction to not-knowing.
We spent much more of the first session on introductions than I expected, because the group was a lot bigger than I thought it would be. The frames in which people were interested in not-knowing surprised me (which I suppose should not be surprising). I’ve been thinking about uncertainty and not-knowing “professionally” for more than a decade, so my approach to it is as a kind of general abstracted theory which gets applied concretely in different ways depending on the context. But context-specificity is a thing and I will address it somehow.
My main takeaways:
- Some people are confronting not-knowing and don’t know what to do about it. They want frameworks for thinking about not-knowing and tools for dealing personally with not-knowing. This group seems to be approaching this in their personal capacities, even if the not-knowing is related to work.
- Other people say they are comfortable with not-knowing. What they want are ways to talk to others about not-knowing and tools for helping others understand and deal with not-knowing. This second group seems to be approaching this in their professional capacities, as consultants, R&D managers, and such.
- Some people seem to interpret “dealing” with not-knowing as “getting rid” of it or “suppressing” it. Is this a hangover from how we’re conditioned to think about dealing with risk — which is inevitably by managing it away in expectation with insurance, hedging, and other stuff like that? My view is you can’t get rid of not-knowing. Anyway, even risk, which is a type of not-knowing, can’t actually be eliminated. It can only be dealt with in expectation and anticipated consequence. For me, dealing with uncertainty means learning how to live with it and even, as a superuser, how to make use of it to flourish. Maybe a better verb is needed here?
- I don’t think I made it clear that there are different types of not-knowing, and that risk is one of those types. Possibly no one cares about these seemingly abstract distinctions of type — might need to make it clearer why the type of not-knowing affects how it can be dealt with.
Topics that came up
- Dealing with fear/anxiety/anger arising from not-knowing.
- Habits/routines/processes that help with managing not-knowing.
- Dealing with not-knowing while in a transition phase.
- How to invest resources (not just money) when the future is not-known.
- How to make use of not-knowing strategically.
- How to navigate not-knowing as a business operator.
- New frameworks/non-obvious approaches for thinking about situations of not-knowing. Includes storytelling and other narrative approaches.
- How to avoid pretending that we know more than we actually do. This includes avoiding stuff like “checkbox syndrome” and “addiction to certainty.”
- How to make embracing not-knowing more inclusive.
- How to persuade others above, below, and at your own level to embrace not knowing.
- How to have or facilitate conversations about not-knowing.
- The value of preserving not-knowing (whether personally or professionally). Includes “ignorance” and “beginner/child mind.”