Craig Sullivan


“The greatest enemy of knowledge is not ignorance, it is the illusion of knowledge.”

Stephen Hawking

I have used the concept of ‘Rumsfeldian Space’ — the unknown unknowns — in many of my presentations and workshops. It’s about the exploratory nature of testing and innovation — and exploiting all the continually branching outcomes of your decisions, towards those that select higher quality areas of ignorance!

I keep returning to this area — to ask good questions in research, to explore uncomfortable or seemingly counter intuitive future directions or to test them and explore them before commitment.

So when I heard This BBC Programme, it was very interesting — about ‘not knowing’ — ignorance and how it drives science and exploration of the unknown.

This quotation, from Professor of Biology at Columbia University, Stuart Firestein, is absolutely brilliant, and worth 2 minutes of your time:

“We all really want to talk about what we don’t know. What makes a great scientist is somebody who can put questions together — who can see what the really important questions are or the better questions. What I call the ‘higher quality ignorance’ as opposed to ‘low quality ignorance’ — because it comes in both varieties.
And this what science is really about and when you think of it that way, science becomes very engaging and very accessible and very interesting for people — and refreshing in many ways. Because we all like a puzzle after all — I mean that’s one of the things that — y’know curiosity is the thing that keeps us going and most engaged. So I want to teach science that way.
We know a lot of stuff but of course there is more stuff that we don’t know. And not only is there more stuff that we don’t know — but the more we know, the more we increase the amount of stuff we don’t know, because there was all that stuff that we didn’t know that we didn’t know before.
And then you do an experiment or gather some data and then you find out that really, there’s even more stuff we didn’t know now — that we can ask. So a whole slew of new questions.
An image I always like is of a circle of knowledge — but as the circle grows, as the diameter increases, so does the circumference that’s in contact with all that darkness outside the circle of light — that ignorance.
So as you increase knowledge, as you increase the size of the circle, you also increase the amount of ignorance you’re now in touch with. It’s a dynamic thing — not just a out there — it’s not just ‘what we don’t know’ — but it continues to grow, we continue to create it.”



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