AMBIGUITY AVERSION

And Some Ambiguous Advice

Today’s puzzle is to figure out what to do, when we don’t know what to do.  Jamie Holmes in Nonsense, The Power of Not Knowing, 2015.

 I believe yesterday’s information anxiety is being replaced by today’s ambiguity aversion. The ever-widening gap between what we know and don’t know is the cause. Today, more and more information has meant more and more uncertainty. And what we understand is becoming more and more unclear, indefinite and vague, which resembles the definition of ambiguous: open to more than one interpretation, doubtful or uncertain.

Being doubtful and uncertain is not popular, in spite of my promoting positive uncertainty. The more you know, the more you realize you don’t know; and we don’t like not knowing. Ambiguity is defined as: doubtfulness or uncertainty as regards interpretation. Doubtful, uncertain, ambiguous, are not popular with the human mind.

Today, what we understand is becoming harder to understand and you could say  uncertain and ambiguous. Seeing ambiguity and uncertainty as a normal part of life today is liberating, beneficial and non-threatening, and it leads to unlearning and learning. Knowledge, understanding and beliefs are learned and can be unlearned; change happens. Unlearning what we have been taught will be the hard part. People have a hard time giving up what they know. Jamie Holmes reminds us: In an increasingly complex, unpredictable world, what matters most isn’t IQ, willpower, or confidence in what we know. It’s how we deal with what we don’t understand.

Ambiguity aversion interferes with positive uncertainty. Ambiguity and uncertainty imply  not knowing. Humans have a need to know. When we don’t know what to do (uncertainty), we have a hard time figuring out what to do, to paraphrase Jamie Holmes. Deciding with uncertainty is difficult. This is when it is tempting to pretend we know what to do; and when we need to revisit Mark Twain: It ain’t what you don’t know that gets you in trouble, it’s what you now for sure that ain’t so.

Since I have been reading and also writing about uncertainty and doubt, this temps me to share some ambiguous advice: Learn To Learn And Then To Unlearn

We must continually unlearn much of what we have learned and learn to learn what we have not been taught. R D Laing

To attain knowledge, add things every day. To attain wisdom, remove things every day.  Lao Tse in the Tao Te Ching

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