The Fear Of Not Knowing
Our love of being right is best understood as our fear of being wrong. Kathryn Schulz
“Info-mania, the idolizing of information”, wasone of my four neuroses in 1993 that get in the way of creating your future*. Info-maniacs worship facts. Fear of appearing ignorant contributes to info-mania. I named this fear “ignorophia”, the fear of “looking stupid”. If idolizing information was a problem in 1993, think what it must be like today. Information is not hard to come by now-days with Social Media, but it is hard to know what information to trust. Not knowing is normal — get used to it.
We seem to have a need to know. We prefer certainty and dislike uncertainty. I have written a lot about positive uncertainty and the usual, expected state of not knowing.Ignorophia is a serious problem in today’s fast pace decision making. So much information is coming so fast that you don’t have time to check the facts before deciding. So what you do is check only your favorite information sources. This leads to several personal and social cognitive biases. Being wrong isn’t a crime. Wrongness is a vital part of how we learn change. Kathryn Schulz in her book, Being Wrong, 2010.
When trying to make a decision today, the decision maker wants to consider all the possible alternatives to choose from. Then consider all the possible outcomes of each alternative. This, of course, is impossible. The impossibility was made official in 1978 when Herbert Simon won the Nobel Prize in Economics for the concept of “bonded rationality”, that challenged the notion of human rationality. Rationality is bounded because there are limits to our thinking capacity, available information, and time. Be aware: Decision alternatives and consequences can only be partly known.
Bounded rationality means decision makers have to work under three unavoidable constraints: 1) only limited, often unreliable information, is available regarding possible alternatives and consequences, 2) the human mind has only limited capacity to evaluate the information that is available, and 3) only a limited amount of time is available to make a decision. These constraints often lead to uncertainty — get used to it.
Infomania, ignoraphobia and always being right won’t work in today’s world of complexity, change and uncertainty. Consider being wrong as a chance to learn.
There are only two things youneed to be successful in life, ignorance and confidence. Mark Twain
*TH FUTURIST, Future Sense, Sept-Oct 1993. The other three neuroses: Future Phobia, Paradigm Paralysis and Reverse Paranoia.