play and spinning plates

by brown1 min read23rd Oct 2018No comments



There are four levels of ignorance [1]:

  • Known Knowns - Knowledge - Things you know and you know you know them.
  • Known Unknowns - Lack of Knowledge - Things you know you don’t know. - I don’t know how to juggle, piffle is probably a word, That feeling that there’s something you’ve forgotten.
  • Unknown Knowns - Lack of Awareness - Things you don’t know you know. Unconscious social knowledge, Things you assume everyone knows how to do, math intuitions.
  • Unknown Unknowns - Things you don’t know you don’t know. A fundamentally different way of experiencing reality, is cryptography important to economics. is having kids transformative. The edge of the map. Ontological updates.

It’s very important to have ways of bumping into Unknown Unknowns. A friend tells you about X. A chance meeting. You read a strange book. You notice you’ve been failing and don’t know why. Going for a walk. Attending University. New experiences.

Once strategy is serious play. Messing around with something seemingly unrelated. Following your interest and sense of fun where it leads even if it’s silly. Don’t let your societal schooling interfere with your weirdness education.

Play lets you explore your boundaries, you’re more comfortable failing so your reach extends. When you're in this mind-frame you notice the wobble of spinning plates in the cafeteria or leave photographic plates near your radium samples or think it strange that mold grew on your infected samples.

Reality is far stranger that it appears. You’re probably wrong about something and there are might crucial considerations that you’re woefully neglecting. But you can’t know which until after the fact. There’s always more to learn, go bump into the world.

Great experiments can be accidents, play will make you accident prone. Play is a biased random walk.

In that spirit, experiments:

say "rhubarb" over and over again untill it sounds like weird noises, look at the world upside down, open a “forbidden” door, write as many questions as you can about one particular tree.


[1] These are four levels that I know of. Might be more. who knows.
Armour, P. (2000). The five orders of ignorance. Communications of the ACM, 43(10), pp.17-20.

Title is inspired by more Feynman, spinning plates & serious play