And Profitable

 “Where ignorance is bliss, ‘tis folly to be wise.’”   Thomas Gray

Ignorance may be considered bliss because not knowing something is often more comfortable than knowing it. Knowledge is both enlightening and burdening. However, ignorance hasn’t been very well respected, although it is very common. Everyone is ignorant, only on different subjects, Will Rodgers.

But if ignorance could be considered profitable, watch out. Genuine ignorance is profitable because it leads to humility, curiosity and open-mindedness, John Dewey.

Ignorance is defined as the lack of knowledge. Genuine ignorance is an actual, authentic, not counterfeit lack of knowledge. Although a lot of people are now working on the development of Artificial Intelligence (AI), not many people are even discussing Genuine Ignorance (GI). I believe ignorance has been getting a bad rap because in our culture we believe that intelligence is a good thing to have, even if it’s artificial, and ignorance is a bad thing to have, even if it’s genuine. But if we could promote genuine ignorance as being profitable, it might catch on. In America, being profitable is probably more popular than being intelligent.

Today there are signs that ignorance is gaining respect, as the importance of not knowing is being discussed and promoted. Universities are offering courses described as “Ignorance 101”. These three new books were just published: Nonsense; The Power of Not Knowing by James Holmes and Ignorance; How It Drives Science by Stuart Firestein and The Routledge International Handbook Of Ignorance Studies (with the subtitle: Not Ignorance But Ignorance Of Ignorance Is The Death Of Knowledge).

Today ignorance (lack of knowledge) is genuine because there is so much of if it, if we would just admit it. I believe we will need our curiosity, humility, and open-mindedness to make wise decisions about our future and the future of humanity and the planet. And for me, open-mindedness is the key. An open mind is comfortable with not knowing and is receptive to new learning.

There is a paradox in knowing. It is well known that humans have a need to know. Humans not only have a need to know, we want things to be perfectly clear. But in today’s complex world of white water change very little is perfectly clear. Here comes the paradox in knowing. Old knowledge blocks new knowing, Nietzsche. That’s because what you already know often closes your mind from learning something new.

However, today, the “new sciences” are based on things like the uncertainty principle, chaos theory, relativity, and complexity. Being certain may have become a thing of the past. In today’s world, to know for sure may not be intelligent behavior. Being comfortable not knowing may be part of being wise.

 Being wise has changed from being able to answer the questions

to being able to question the answers. Unknown






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  1. Eugene Unger says:

    H my friend, I am worded out! No wonder intellectuals stair into space a lot. Locked up in a war of words . Bliss indeed Is not caring . Growing old in contented happy bliss is a good thing.



  2. Marianne Fontana says:

    I like this different way of looking at knowledge–to have or not to have. I’ll have to admit before I read your article, I thought we have a lot of ignorance visible these days–listen to the politicians–But the idea for having a void in knowing something does allow one to build new information to use in this complex new world.

  3. I choose to be ignorant on an infinite number of topics. John

  4. John Larry Snipes says:

    Nothing in education is so astonishing as the amount of ignorance it accumulates in the form of inert facts. – Henry Adams (1838 – 1918)
    My grandfather used to tell me that it isn’t the things we don’t know that do us in, but the things we know that “ain’t so”.

    • hbgelatt says:

      Thanks John for the response. Your grandfather agrees with Mark Twain:
      “It ain’t what you don’t know that gets you in trouble, it’s what you know for sure that ain’t so.

      h B

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