Difficulties of Recognizing Our Own Incompetence


The Living Force
Bud said:
mkrnhr said:
Maybe it has to do with the unknown and the unknowable?
OK, let us say that one of the 'things' is a purple rock the size of a basketball smack dab in the middle of Jupiter's North pole. Now, assume none of us has been there to see this rock and no instrument has recorded the existence of this rock, but for now, the rock is there and has not yet been discovered.

This rock qualifies as a 'thing'. We do not know this rock is there and we do not know that we do not know the rock is there because maybe the thought has never crossed our minds.

So, there's this rock we don't know about and, since we've never even considered the possibility of it's existence, we don't even know that we don't know about the rock...but we are also somehow supposed to know THAT, since knowing is 'knowing something'.

It just reads like someone is either making a mockery out of 'knowing' or, by supposedly offering this line of thought as a possible example of 'more intelligence', are just demonstrating incompetence.

Having said that, I am open to seeing my own intellectual failure here if someone comes along and makes sense out of it for me (and possibly others who may be wondering).

In fact, I'd be very grateful.
That's maybe the answer, it is not maybe knowing you don't know things you don't know or whatever. It is more like to be open to future, I don't know if intelligence have to be relationated with that, it looks more like experience from the individual. You in one way or another know there are things you didn't realize, so you are open because you never know what you are going to learn.

edit: spell


Padawan Learner
"A sign of an intelligent person is knowing there are things you don’t know, but a sign of an even more intelligent person may be knowing there are things that you don’t know you don’t know."

I love this. Going to try to burn this in my mind. I feel like if I can just grasp and remember these words of wisdom, I'll be a better man because of them.


I remember this or something like it:

Max and 99 are stranded on a desert island and Chaos is closing in. But no worries, for they have an inflatable lifeboat. Max takes charge, cautions 99 to stand back, and then proceeds to flail frantically in his inept attempts to activate the inflation cord. Max, being the highly trained secret agent he is known to be, knows that there is something he doesn't know about this. He's seen his father do this similar action with a cord in his childhood and it eventually brought delight to his papa. Of couse he never knew how many times it took before it worked for papa but eventually it did. So Max adopted this particular problem solving strategy, of persisted flailing until success. In Max's world he knew that the only thing that was unknown was how many times he had to flail before success. :headbash:

99, on the other hand, being the only daughter amongst three brothers raised on a combination organic farm and salvage yard, knew how to rebuild tractors before she was tall enough to reach the pedals (that didn't stop her from drivin' though). So it was a rather quick and thorough assessment 99 made in her mind when she determined that Max doesn't have a clue, or in our words, she knows that he doesn't know that he doesn't know how to engage this simple device. Yet 99 in her sublime wisdom and externally considerate way, waits until Max takes a breather, and then respectfully, but firmly takes the handle from him and says gently, "Here Max, let me try." And with one perfectly measured outward pull activates the inflator and the perfect escape vessel unfolds before their eyes. :-[ :boat: :clap:

Max could have had a moment, upon seeing the sheer mastery by which 99 executed her maneuver, an epiphany we may call it, of realization of not knowing that he didn't know. He now, in retrospect could be sharing 99's conviction that he didn't have a clue. In other words a humbling recognition of having behaved foolishly. Because now that Max really thinks about it, it was really a lawnmower that pops always flailed at. The tricky part is, is there ever a moment when Max could have stated, "I know that I don't know that I don't know. "? Well Max, maybe. If he had thought, "I know that I did not know that I did not know", we could all sleep in peace.

But alas, poor Max, to take that step, recognize his folly, and allow us to go to bed, would have to blow his cover. Max, ever the cool one, perused the situation, looked up at 99, as she is quite a bit taller than him, and poised with a grimace that could melt Bond's Walther PPK said, "You've got a lot to learn about male superiority, 99." :jawdrop:


Jedi Council Member
FOTCM Member
What an interesting thread and humbling for me. As Mme. Salzmann has been quoted
I listen, constantly refusing each known response. From moment to moment, I recognize that I do not know, and I listen. The very act of listening is liberation. It is an action that does not flee the present, and when I know the present as it is, there is transformation.
I would like to ask, how do you understand "transformation"? My experience is that when real transformation, even a small one happens there is a different overall sensation in my being, a change in FRV? If sensation is involved in this process of facing the blind spots, can the body as a feedback mechanism be of help in this Work?

Several times after doing EÉ I had the experience of gaining back unsensed aspects of myself, like areas relaxed that I never felt before, followed by a change in perception. The unsensed was numb before. Is numbness (I don´t find a better word) a sensation that would indicate: You approach the blind spots? Hope that makes sense what I ask :/


The Force is Strong With This One
What's interesting is that there are some who are extraordinarily competent in one area (like Steven Hawking) who then feel competent to speak on topics they know nothing about (like religion), when in fact they are comically inept in their grasp of that topic. So with the first sort true stupidity blinds them to their own stupidity, while with the second sort true brilliance makes them overgeneralize their expertise to the point they sound just as stupid as the second sort (hello Christopher Hitchens).


The Living Force
cometboyat60 said:
What's interesting is that there are some who are extraordinarily competent in one area (like Steven Hawking) who then feel competent to speak on topics they know nothing about (like religion), when in fact they are comically inept in their grasp of that topic. So with the first sort true stupidity blinds them to their own stupidity, while with the second sort true brilliance makes them overgeneralize their expertise to the point they sound just as stupid as the second sort (hello Christopher Hitchens).
That could enter in the explanation from Mouravieff about polar beings, or no may be not, imagine if Stephen Hawkings find someone not needed a woman, that would help him to understand topics about religion, and then the two may be understanding each others. Just like our two big elders on earth Laura and Ark.

The thing here is that Stephen could be so inmersed in his personality that he do not feel the need of a left hand.


The Force is Strong With This One
Certainly one of the difficulties of recognizing our own 'incompetence' is satisfying ourselves with the incompetence of others...


Jedi Master
FOTCM Member
Buddy wrote:
...but I'm wondering if anyone besides me has a problem with this part:

Quote from: JGeropoulas on July 31, 2010, 07:04:42 AM


...but a sign of an even more intelligent person may be knowing there are things that you don’t know you don’t know.

Forgive me, I am just starting this thread and maybe should read on before I post, but... I cannot fathom a problem with this. As a matter of fact, this is a realization that I came to after recapitulating my entire life. What I know, What I don't know, What I think I know, What I know I don't know, and that led me to what I don't know that I don't even know that I don't know. To me it appears to be a logical process. There is only so much that we know, and so much more that we don't know. And when you contemplate that thought, it could only lead you to wonder how much more is there that we 'don't know, that we don't even know that we don't know'.

Whether it is a sign of intelligence, I don't know. I don't think that I am a 'stupid' person, although I have made many 'stupid choices', I don't know that I am a 'more intelligent' person. And I have no proof of any 'intelligent choices' that I have made. But I am sure that if there are so many things that I know I don't know, there must be so many more things that I don't even know that I don't know.

So, say that three times fast!! I will go now and catch up on this tread and maybe this post will prove to you all that I don't know what I don't know!


Padawan Learner
Brilliant concept, and also quite simple, I think (which I guess any great concept is).

An unknown unknown doesn't have to be some super advanced 4th dimensional knowledge. It's just something you don't know you don't know, yet. We crack them quite often, especially when we're young. It's being aware of it that counts.

Say you grow up in a loving environment. Witnessing say an act of violence is an unknown unknown becoming a known unknown. You didn't know it existed, now you do but you still don't know why. Soon this might become a known known. You know what violence is and why it happened. Or maybe you just think you do, cause there can still be both known unknowns and unknown unknowns in your expanded, yet limited, knowledge.

A less wise person might therefore spend all his life chasing known unknowns, and although he might still discover the unknown unknowns, they could take longer to realize or he could dismiss them altogether as useless abstracts. He would also probably adapt a more rigid belief system to the things he already knows, limiting himself with the need for control.

In short I think it's about expanding your reach by accepting that knowledge isn't something you control or even consciously seek out, sometimes it just comes to you because you kept an open mind in the first place.


The Force is Strong With This One
cometboyat60 said:
What's interesting is that there are some who are extraordinarily competent in one area (like Steven Hawking) who then feel competent to speak on topics they know nothing about (like religion), when in fact they are comically inept in their grasp of that topic. So with the first sort true stupidity blinds them to their own stupidity, while with the second sort true brilliance makes them overgeneralize their expertise to the point they sound just as stupid as the second sort (hello Christopher Hitchens).
This was Socrates's discovery when he tried to find a person wiser than himself in Athens. He went to the politicians, then the poets and artists, then the craftsmen, each in turn, examining them to see if their claims of knowledge were sound, and found that although they knew some things pertaining to their own art or science, on other matters they did not know what they thought they knew. And, of course, when Socrates pointed out their ignorance to them, they became indignant and despised him.

"Well, Chaerephon, as you know, was very impetuous in all his doings, and he went to Delphi and boldly asked the oracle to tell him whether - as I was saying, I must beg you not to interrupt - he asked the oracle to tell him whether there was anyone wiser than I was, and the Pythian prophetess answered that there was no man wiser. Chaerephon is dead himself, but his brother, who is in court, will confirm the truth of this story.

Why do I mention this? Because I am going to explain to you why I have such an evil name. When I heard the answer, I said to myself, What can the god mean? and what is the interpretation of this riddle? for I know that I have no wisdom, small or great. What can he mean when he says that I am the wisest of men? And yet he is a god and cannot lie; that would be against his nature. After a long consideration, I at last thought of a method of trying the question. I reflected that if I could only find a man wiser than myself, then I might go to the god with a refutation in my hand. I should say to him, "Here is a man who is wiser than I am; but you said that I was the wisest." Accordingly I went to one who had the reputation of wisdom, and observed to him - his name I need not mention; he was a politician whom I selected for examination - and the result was as follows: When I began to talk with him, I could not help thinking that he was not really wise, although he was thought wise by many, and wiser still by himself; and I went and tried to explain to him that he thought himself wise, but was not really wise; and the consequence was that he hated me, and his enmity was shared by several who were present and heard me. So I left him, saying to myself, as I went away: Well, although I do not suppose that either of us knows anything really beautiful and good, I am better off than he is - for he knows nothing, and thinks that he knows. I neither know nor think that I know. In this latter particular, then, I seem to have slightly the advantage of him. Then I went to another, who had still higher philosophical pretensions, and my conclusion was exactly the same. I made another enemy of him, and of many others besides him.

After this I went to one man after another, being not unconscious of the enmity which I provoked, and I lamented and feared this: but necessity was laid upon me - the word of God, I thought, ought to be considered first. And I said to myself, Go I must to all who appear to know, and find out the meaning of the oracle. And I swear to you, Athenians, by the dog I swear! - for I must tell you the truth - the result of my mission was just this: I found that the men most in repute were all but the most foolish; and that some inferior men were really wiser and better. I will tell you the tale of my wanderings and of the "Herculean" labors, as I may call them, which I endured only to find at last the oracle irrefutable. When I left the politicians, I went to the poets; tragic, dithyrambic, and all sorts. And there, I said to myself, you will be detected; now you will find out that you are more ignorant than they are. Accordingly, I took them some of the most elaborate passages in their own writings, and asked what was the meaning of them - thinking that they would teach me something. Will you believe me? I am almost ashamed to speak of this, but still I must say that there is hardly a person present who would not have talked better about their poetry than they did themselves. That showed me in an instant that not by wisdom do poets write poetry, but by a sort of genius and inspiration; they are like diviners or soothsayers who also say many fine things, but do not understand the meaning of them. And the poets appeared to me to be much in the same case; and I further observed that upon the strength of their poetry they believed themselves to be the wisest of men in other things in which they were not wise. So I departed, conceiving myself to be superior to them for the same reason that I was superior to the politicians.

At last I went to the artisans, for I was conscious that I knew nothing at all, as I may say, and I was sure that they knew many fine things; and in this I was not mistaken, for they did know many things of which I was ignorant, and in this they certainly were wiser than I was. But I observed that even the good artisans fell into the same error as the poets; because they were good workmen they thought that they also knew all sorts of high matters, and this defect in them overshadowed their wisdom - therefore I asked myself on behalf of the oracle, whether I would like to be as I was, neither having their knowledge nor their ignorance, or like them in both; and I made answer to myself and the oracle that I was better off as I was.

This investigation has led to my having many enemies of the worst and most dangerous kind, and has given occasion also to many calumnies, and I am called wise, for my hearers always imagine that I myself possess the wisdom which I find wanting in others: but the truth is, O men of Athens, that God only is wise; and in this oracle he means to say that the wisdom of men is little or nothing; he is not speaking of Socrates, he is only using my name as an illustration, as if he said, He, O men, is the wisest, who, like Socrates, knows that his wisdom is in truth worth nothing. And so I go my way, obedient to the god, and make inquisition into the wisdom of anyone, whether citizen or stranger, who appears to be wise; and if he is not wise, then in vindication of the oracle I show him that he is not wise; and this occupation quite absorbs me, and I have no time to give either to any public matter of interest or to any concern of my own, but I am in utter poverty by reason of my devotion to the god. "
--from Plato's Apology

Of course an obvious parallel can be drawn with the Allegory of the Cave, and should! If we would truly be sober about our condition, when we awake after a day or a week or longer of having forgotten ourselves and the Work, to pick ourselves up, dust ourselves off and continue. Because we will forget, and fall into thinking we know what we don't know. The important thing is not to give up, or fall into despair. :rockon:


The Force is Strong With This One
I have faith in the people, more than i do a massive family of insane criminals.

We are the result of our ancestors and our ancestors were tricked by
a crazy family talking about gods and demons.

This family introduced alcohol to mankind, many thousands of years ago
knowing it would depress our thirst for the truth.

One of the earliest royal ancestors - the Egyptian 'Seth' -

'What have I done? The decline in public civility is shocking even to me,
and I'm the one who started it. Ladies and gentlemen, the crux about
wine is this: The fermentation of fruit and grain into alcoholic liquor
is the deadliest secret in nature, and one of the clearest proofs that
this realm must be operating in divine guidance. If it were not, then
how could such a powerful threat to the health of the soul occur
here in nature so lazily, so easily and everywhere?

Alcohol is my friend. He's a killer. Putting it simply: I will harvest every
body of flesh here in this room within the next hundred years, though
some last longer. The ones that alcohol catches are the easiest for me.
They seem to stretch their necks toward the blade, and they fall plumb,
without a struggle into the bag. It's not safe for me to harvest many
of them at one time, because they're poisonous. Bury the body of
a drunk under a flower bush or a hedge, and the plant will lose moisture
and begin to wither. But alcohol is not all dismal. It gives courage to
terrified people. It liberates laughter. You can realize a great amount
of money from making liquor and selling it. You can forget your
sorrow until you remember it again. If you don't like life, you can
escape from it sooner. Drink up! '

They have installed culture, just as they installed religion, one after the other.
Our decisions are clouded as a result and the emotional memories of
our ancestors affect us in our decision making process.

The reverse engineering of society will take many generations and it
can only happen if the royal genepool is held to account.


The Living Force
Fluxed, the above post amounts to noise. You have been going on about the royal gene pool in all of your posts till now. It seems that you are quite invested in that theory. Please (re)read the forum guidelines to see what we do here and if there is enough common ground between the forum and you to have meaningful communication.


The Force is Strong With This One
"ERROL MORRIS: And aren’t there some tasks where we’re all incompetent, where humanity itself is in the bottom quartile, so to speak?"

Absolutely! Being some things necessarily makes one unsuited for others. I.e. An elephant can't fly and a butterfly can't knock down trees. Reminds of the part in Breakfast Club where the Honor's kid (Anthony Michael Hall) confesses to the bully (Judd Nelson) that he took wood shop because he thought it would be easy since the less intelligent hicks could breeze through it, not realizing it was a totally different type of actual intelligence to which he was neither privy, nor to that point even knew it to exist.

"A sign of an intelligent person is knowing there are things you don’t know, but a sign of an even more intelligent person may be knowing there are things that you don’t know you don’t know."

This is why I choose intelligent, KIND, diplomatic, tactful people as friends and mentors. They are very good at pointing out your weaknesses without flaring up your defensiveness. You can't learn if you are being defensive, at that moment you lose objectivity. Humorous people can sometimes help you see the ridiculousness of it if it's not done in a humiliating way; that's how my hubby works. But I can admit I want not to listen to him when he points out something I don't want to believe about myself in a very blunt way.
But I always thought, if I'm walking around with my skirt tucked into my pantyhose and my bum's hanging out, (actually witnessed this at church) I hope someone is kind enough to point out what I can't see about myself, figuratively of course. Yeah it's a little embarrassing, but better to know and not be giving a free show, than to go around all day not covering your a$$. We are all bad at something. I'm really, really good (actually am in the 97th or higher percentile in IQ) at a lot of stuff but I'm equally bad at directions and geography. Get lost where I live, give everyone the benefit of the doubt, can't tell my left from my right without making an L with my left hand :) but I have done everything in my power to mitigate my weaknesses. But you can't do that if you won't admit you have a weakness. I have the worst short-term memory issues...when I was 20 I tried being a waitress. Someone would ask me for a drink, I'd walk back to the drink station and say to myself, what am I doing here? Walk out and see the customer and suddenly remember, return and forget again. By the 4th time the customer thinks you are doing it on purpose and you get no tip. I learned about writing everything down, making lists and reminders and whatever visual cues I could make for myself to overcome this major weakness. It made me bad at a job, which I could not tolerate. I pride myself on my work. And this technique has been spectacularly successful. Another thing I did, is when considering getting married for the 3rd time I made an assessment of my weaknesses and strengths and looked for a partner who could help me shore up my weak spots and strengthen my gifts.
I also had the worst road rage issues (shame on me) but didn't realize how badly I was behaving until my children started screaming at people who cut me off before I did. So I had to stop listening to aggressive music, make a very conscious effort not to NEED to be at the front of the line (noticed I would speed up to be in front of a pack of cars, but then would slow down to normal once I was in the front; very territorial.) if you're open to it there are messages and lessons everywhere you're willing to see them. Little snippets of wisdom surround you in the most mundane, trivial things. Playing this stupid phone game called Unblock Me, I learned sometimes to go forward you have to go backwards. How profound! And how true!


At first I thought this quote pertained to either a dossier on my own self, or that of Donald Rumsfeld. Either way, if the boot
fits, you must wear it (Old Russian Proverb). ;)
"Unskilled and Unaware of It: How Difficulties of Recognizing One's Own Incompetence Lead to Inflated Self-assessments."

It's a basic human need to feel safe and to feel safe you have to feel like you understand your world.
If you feel like you understand your world than you make all kinds of assumptions.

It is a fundamental axiom that the more ignorant a person is, the more that person will assume they know.
Ask an aboriginal what a rock is and they will laugh at you. Only a primitive being has all knowledge.

If we didn't have self inflated images we wouldn't make any progress as a species. I'm not convinced that it
would be to our advantage to correct ourselves of all our failing even if it were possible, which it isn't as what
then would be the purpose of living?

I believe that to to pretend to be the fool to see if the unknown will reveal itself is certainly a clever tactic,
but it's a waiting game, whereas to expose oneself and to be recognized as a fool is part an parcel to being human
and to learning in general.
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