coming to terms with my ignorance, not embracing it

On any given day, on any given topic, I think it’s safe to assume that I know less than 1% of what can possibly be known about most issues in the news.

So let’s say you have a news worthy topic where there are two individuals involved, that means you have two perspectives. Only knowing one perspective means you know only 50% of what can possibly be known about a particular event involving those two folks. Obviously, when I say “known”, I mean having a firm enough grasp of something to be able to develop educated opinions about it. I don’t mean some extreme version of knowing like the ability to know all the positions of atoms in the universe during time x.

Ok. So if you have an issue involving 4 people but only know the perspective of one, then you only know a quarter of what can be known. With 8 people, if you only know the perspective of a single individual, then you now only really know 1/8 of what can be known. All of this and so on all the way down.

Once you appreciate how little you really know about most things, it’s fun to watch people who are so confident in their positions that are basically developed from ignorance. I would say that most political debate is people screaming at one another from positions of ignorance about topics they can’t possibly know much about, because those topics are incredibly complex.

Because it takes time to develop knowledge about most important issues, one can generally develop a pretty decent estimate about any given person’s ability to know much at all about it based on certain data points about their life. Key variables would include whether they have a demanding job that sucks up most of their time during the day, and perhaps if they have kids that take up lots of their time at night.

Assuming that most of the average busy person’s day is taken up by these types of important activities, and assuming that the average issue takes at least a couple hours of dedicated reading to even know 5% of what can be known, then the vast majority of the population has no time to know much about much, including me.

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