Nobody knows anything

And that is probably fine, because nobody did, ever.

And as William Goldman wrote, we can only make a guess, and hope that it is an educated one. And this does not seem to be something new, I am sure that many of you have heard about the following quote from Socrates:

I know that I know nothing.

Socrates?

Which is a cool quote, but quite meaningless without context. And when one looks at the context, one can see that it is quite challenging to find when did Socrates actually said that. To make things more difficult, Socrates did not leave any writings so we must use the narrations from students of him like Plato. There is, however, a passage in Plato’s Apology (also called Socrates’ defense), where we can find the following claim from Socrates (again, always through the words from Plato):

…I seem, then, in just this little thing to be wiser than this man at any rate, that what I do not know I do not think I know either.

Henry Cary literal translation of 1897 of the Apology (Plato)

So, after reading the book (is a short one, by the way, so give it a try), my take in what Socrates is claiming here is that he has the wisdom of:
– Knowing what he knows.
– Knowing (or being aware) of what he does not know.
– Being aware of the difference.

And the last sentence is the key. I have no idea if Socrates was actually aware of all the things he did not know, but I am pretty sure that society is very thirsty for visionaries that “know” what is going to happen (or what is going on at the present). Just watch any news channel and you will get multiple people claiming that they know what is going to happen. And what is amazing to me is the following:
– They may have completely opposite views and not even try to make their own case.
– Even after being completely wrong in the past, even after giving no explanation or reasons of why the were wrong, they will still be there, shameless. Don’t get me wrong: there is nothing bad with being wrong. There is a lot bad with having been proven wrong and not fix it, learn from it or improve from it.

The reality is that uncertainty is around us, and nobody knows nothing for sure. There are only a few people in the world that are able to make very good educated guesses. People with a vast knowledge (or a great overview) of quite specific topics that are proven usually correct about the developments of that specific topic. These people often have 2 important traits:
– They have done the job (which usually means a lot of research).
– They will not give a definitive answer, only an amount of ‘likeness to happen’, or similar.

There is a deep human believe of everything getting better in the future. This is a reason for procrastination (tomorrow will be a better day than today to start going to the gym). And why human beings usually don’t plan for the future at all. Later, when the present time does bring turmoil, we look in awe of the people who already told us that there was a problem: see the views of Bill Gate’s TED talk in 2015 about the next outbreak, and how ‘easy’ looks now predicting the economy’s collapse in 2008*. The information was there, but nobody likes to think in what is going to happen after the party finishes.

Now, this is not a pessimistic view of the future. In fact, I am quite optimistic: I am sure that humanity will keep going on and will achieve a better society in the future. What I don’t know is how long will that take, and we have seen ups and downs through history.

Be skeptic, be safe, and be prepared.

“… there is no shame in not knowing. The problem arises when irrational thought and attendant behavior fill the vacuum left by ignorance.”

Neil deGrasse Tyson, The Sky is Not the Limit: Adventures of an Urban Astrophysicist.

*Did you know that there have been indications of a new recession of the economy since the last months of 2018? Does it look like anybody cared at all?

One Reply to “Nobody knows anything”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *