He who knows that he knows nothing knows more who does not know that he knows nothing.
What should one do with such a statement?
The Dunning Kruger effect is similarly well known:
Lay people cannot estimate how much they know about something. They tend to overestimate their knowledge. Experts tend to estimate their knowledge lower.
We all have topics where we are experts and topics where we have only superficial lay knowledge. So the likelihood is very high that others will discover the Duning Kruger effect in us. Don’t worry, it’s perfectly human and not a sign of failure.
Let me explain it figuratively:
Imagine you go hiking with friends in your neighborhood. Near your house there is a big hill. You visit this hill and have a wonderful view of your town. You see your former school, the church, your house the park. All places you have visited a hundred times. You know your neighborhood pretty well, don’t you?
Let’s visit the new lookout tower just outside the city, say your friendsL. No sooner said than done. Now you can see only the church and the park. So you can roughly estimate where your house is. But what is that hill south of here? You’ve never seen or heard of it. There’s a lake up ahead, you know it. You’ve also seen the yellow villa and the big bridge for the first time. There is still a lot to discover until you know all the corners of your city.
Next week you’ll take a balloon ride. After that you will know even more how many places you don’t know.
After every vacation we know more and more how little we have actually seen of the world. That’s why we can always look forward to it again.
And as banal as I have presented it here, it is like that with most things. The more you dig into something, the more doors open.
If life were a bartender, he would put a bigger and bigger glass on the counter for you to drink out of. Cheers
What the heck! Then I just do not know everything
What we know is a grain of sand. What we don’t know is a comet with a gigantic size.
Some grains of sand are bigger than others, but when we compare them with a comet, the difference in size is no longer so striking.
Why is our knowledge nevertheless not insignificant?
We humans have learned to share and pass on our knowledge. Communication among each other was and is one of the most important survival strategies of humans. If billions of grains of sand pass on a part of their knowledge, then we reach the size of a beach.
How can you make use of Socrates‘ wisdom?
First of all, you have to accept that you know very little. The ego makes it difficult to admit that. It does not mean that you are stupid or that your abilities are limited.
It means: you are aware of your level of knowledge. If you perceive yourself as an expert in something, but you have only recently discovered it, then there is a great danger that you are a layman.
The expert knows that he does not know everything. The layman has never heard of the things the expert doesn’t know. The expert gets help with the things he doesn’t know about. The layman doesn’t need help because he’s not even aware of the gaps in his knowledge.
The sooner you accept that you are subject to the Duning Kruger effect, the less you are subject to it.
So it happens to you much less often that you make mistakes as a layman. You approach things with more respect and feel good about accepting help.
Let me explain it to you through an example:
Asset building example:
The layman who thinks he is an expert:
You have 10,000 euros to invest and want to buy individual stocks. You’ve heard of the one cool company that also makes e-cars, like the Tesla company. The only difference is that this company is still in its infancy. You „know“ how much potential there is in e-mobility and so you invest everything in this company. You put all your eggs in one basket because you have already seen the success of Tesla. You invest everything because you know that your investment will increase fivefold in the next few years.
The layman who knows that he is a layman:
He, too, has heard about the new company. However, he admits that he is not familiar enough with this market. That’s why he does more and more research. The differences to Tesla become clearer and clearer to him, and so he is better and better able to assess the opportunities and risks between the two companies. The layman comes to the conclusion that this company is severely undervalued so far. There are risks for total loss. But also the chance for a tenfold increase.
The layman invests only 1600 euros in this company. Experts“ from Youtube and the financial journal, speak to the company a glorious future.
The rest of the money he invests in 7 other companies, which also have a confident future outlook.
After 5 years, the shares for the e-car company have doubled. Two companies have given 10% return. One company is 5% lower than five years ago, and one company had to file for bankruptcy. But two companies could bring better performance. One brought a whopping 500% and the other even 1000%, a so-called tenbagger.
The layman who thinks he is an expert could find confirmation because he could increase his capital from 10 000 Euro to 20 000 Euro.
The layman, who was aware of his ignorance, had to learn first of all painfully that he once invested wrongly. But he was able to learn a lot from it. He is now careful with companies that have a high debt burden.
But the layman is nevertheless satisfied: he was able to increase his capital from 10,000 euros to 25,040 euros.
Both have a positive result. However, it can also happen that the former suffers a total loss. Finally, in the second example, two shares made up the main return.
For me, diversification is a concrete example of how to make use of Socrates‘ wisdom. If you have a lot of money but don’t invest it, you assume that all other stores of value will lose value. If you look back in the past, that was not the case. Key words: Inflation, low and negative interest rates, currency reform.
What other messages are there in this wisdom ?
1.Lifelong learning. There is always one more detail that you have overlooked.
2.Don’t be arrogant with what you have learned so far. Even if you are the biggest grain of sand on our little beach.
3.Don’t drive yourself crazy if you only understand a small part of this world.
4.You will never get bored. Have fun discovering new things.
5.It’s human to have gaps in your knowledge.
How to argue against Socrates?
1. I know what I know
I know that I know something. If I throw a stone upward, then I see nevertheless like the gravity pulls the stone again downward. To call it once as an example of many. Just because I don’t know everything, it doesn’t mean that I don’t know anything.
2. Excuse for laziness
How should that motivate me, if I have to reproach myself that I basically don’t know anything.
3. It also applies to Socrates
How does Socrates know that he knows nothing, if he knows nothing? And how do others know that you know nothing, if they themselves know nothing?
We do not know what we do not know. This sounds so simple that it already sounds silly when we say it out loud.
The saying has, depending on the point of view, a philosophical or a provocative statement. Whether this statement has also arisen only because it was translated wrongly, one cannot exclude that also. I think it has a true core. There are moments in life when things just go well and you get a flight of fancy. Everyone knows how it ends when you don’t find your way back to the ground. So I see it as a help to stay grounded. I know: I have not eaten wisdom with a spoon!
Knowledge is power and yes it is true: We humans have acquired a lot of knowledge in the last 3000 years. Just as we now have more knowledge than the generations before us, the generations after us will have enormously more knowledge than we have today.
If we do not overestimate our knowledge, then we do not overestimate our power. Given the enormous gaps in knowledge that all of humanity has and will have for a very long time, we humans should stop overestimating ourselves and show more humility before nature. We all know how stories end otherwise.
Now you are asked
Your thoughts are welcome in the comment field
Does Socrates strike a chord of truth with his statement, or do you think he simply had too much free time?
Please write in the comments
For those who want to know how to learn in a brain-friendly way, I recommend all the books by Vera Birkenbihl. From her are also very great lectures on Youtube. Unfortunately, this brilliant woman passed away in 2011 at only 65 years old.