The world is an endless encyclopedia. Science and medicine have reached extraordinary levels and we are finding out new things every day. We are an extremely educated society, especially compared to other countries. Knowledge is limitless, which begs the question of why there is such a thing as a know-it-all? Education may be power, but no one knows everything. Why does our society put a cap on learning after, say, college, then expect people to make educated decisions? Instead, we need to be challenging people to learn more and not rely solely on Google for everything. Knowledge should be constantly worked for, and endlessly praised. As Will Perkins said, “Ignorance is not bliss, ignorance is dangerous.”
We live in a society where we have access to information, yet we still listen to whatever news station we prefer, and agree with unchecked articles. Instead of researching and reading, we type into Google and click the first result we see. The answer just pops up. We don’t work for our understanding, and we often have no idea where the “truths” we understand come from. Many people refuse to look up anything because they’d rather not know, or if they know then that means they have to do something about it, which isn’t always the case. Knowledge leaves power to make decisions.
Phillip G. Armour wrote an article in the Communications of the ACM journal called “The Five Orders of Ignorance.” In it he says that the orders “can be helpful in understanding what is needed to reduce our ignorance.” Although he’s using the orders to teach about code and computer knowledge, I believe they relate to every day knowledge as well.
The first order is “Lack of Ignorance.” This means you know something and can prove it. For example: you know your age and can prove it with your identification. The second is “Lack of Knowledge.” This means you know you don’t know something. Armour argues knowing you don’t know is a form of knowledge, and by knowing this, you are able to go find out what you need to know. The third order is “Lack of Awareness.” This means you don’t know that you don’t know. He explains, “not only am I ignorant of something, I am unaware of what that something might be.” The fourth order, and the most difficult to understand, is “Lack of Process.” This one means you don’t know of a way to find out something you don’t know. For example, if you have a problem and are unable to find out things you don’t know that you don’t know, you can’t change those things. Armour talks about this step as needing to be able to convert into order two or three to be successful because, “I can’t change those things I don’t know that I don’t know into either things that I know, or at least things I know that I don’t know, as a step toward converting the things I know that I don’t know into things I know.” The last order is “Meta Ignorance” which is simply saying, “I don’t know about the Five Orders of Ignorance.”
“The Five Orders of Ignorance” are fascinating because if you think about it, everyone is constantly at all five steps. We don’t know everything. I love these orders because you can use them to change your mindset about learning. Instead of listening to the news person, go do research of your own. This is what leads to an educated society. Not only that, but a society that can teach other societies well formulated truths. Be able to prove something and have a “lack of ignorance” instead of just quoting what you’ve heard that you think sounds good. Let’s also take out “ignorance is bliss” as something positive, and substitute it with an eagerness to learn.