The Curse of Knowledge

Try this. Pick a tune in your head, something most people would easily recognise. Find someone and tap the tune out. Tap, not hum. See if they get it.

How annoyed or frustrated do you get if they can’t get something that seems so obvious to you? I am somewhat ashamed that I wasn’t able to recognise “Happy Birthday” when Marty tried it on me, though it did prove a point.

When you know something, and you know it well, it’s hard to imagine how someone else could possible not know about it. Until we develop ET-like powers of psychic connection, most experiential or knowledge exchange is carried out under context deficient conditions and restricted by language. Remember the mythical swing?

This is hardly an insight. What is perhaps less stated is its censorship effects. One of the common reasons I abandon an idea or poject is because it seems so obvious that I feel embarassed to mention it, or even write a whole article about it. Especially since someone could easily reach the same level of understanding if they spent enough time googling for it.

I think this self-censorship robs us twofold. It robs us of an opportunity to synthesise and refine our thoughts in writing, but also robs the rest of the world of your insight that may not be all that obvious to them.

One of the most visited pages on this blog is about an Android related build system problem. This is despite there existing a stackoverflow post about it that’s shorter and more concise. There is value in your unique synthesis and contextual insight.

So stop crossing out those ideas for projects and articles. It could even be about something as mundane as fried rice. 🙂

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