Unknown Knowns

.

“There are known knowns; there are things we know we know. We also know there are known unknowns; that is to say we know there are some things we do not know. But there are also unknown unknowns — the ones we don’t know we don’t know. So when we do the best we can and we pull all this information together, and we then say well that’s basically what we see as the situation, that is really only the known knowns and the known unknowns. And each year, we discover a few more of those unknown unknowns.” -Donald Rumsfeld, 2002.

.

I believe Rummy missed one: The unknown knowns.
.
In fact, I believe most popular movies/ books/ anything else misses this too. It is a highly underrated knowledge.
.
The unknown knowns are those things you know, but aren’t aware you know. They could be things you take for granted or something right under your nose that you never knew you knew about -for example you might “know” something to be true, but never actually think about it (and so not know you know) until perhaps someone else mentions it.

.
“She’s pregnant!” …only after you hear it do you realise that you somehow “knew” all along.
.

Similarly, the best comedy is often to be had from these unknown knowns -everyday life events we already know about, but weren’t aware we knew or did. When they are held up in front of our eyes, perhaps through a skewed lens, we have to laugh because we recognise what we already knew, but somehow didn’t know we knew.

.

Why do I say this is missed by most books and movies nowadays?

.

Well, in my opinion the best “works of art” are almost indescribable, yet speak sometimes in a personal nature directly to the reader/ viewer. It’s not something that can be described in the blurb in the back of the book, so it’s not easily marketable, so it’s unappreciated.
Or under-appreciated at least.

.

Maybe the book/ movie hasn’t even broached a topic, but yet puts a certain thought in your head or leaves you with a mood that is familiar and yet new. These are the greatest.

.

I’ve often turned the last page of a book I really enjoyed and half an hour later could barely remember any of it. To me, that makes the book almost a complete waste of time.

.

On the other hand, the best books can often be harder to get into -they need some work by us readers, to place ourselves in the right frame of mind to appreciate “the full show”. But as the last page is turned, we are left floating for a long time afterward. Maybe with much to think about or just to appreciate the mood.

.
The unknown knowns can also lead one to that “ah yes of course!” moment, as when you suddenly realise “AAHHH So *THIS* is where it’s all going! -I didn’t know that, but now that I know I know it, I knew it all along!”


.

The unknown knowns are the best of all knowns and unknowns because they take the least effort with the greatest reward (or at least the groundwork has already been done, maybe subconsciously).

.
NOW… The next time you find a forgotten tenner in your back-pocket you will hold it aloft and declare with joy: “The unknown known!”  🙂

.

.

Jim Emerson has a good discussion on Rumsfeld’s points here.

.

Leave a Reply

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

This blog is kept spam free by WP-SpamFree.