Naming and familiarizing the unknown

Élan Vital 2012-03-08

Phoebe wrote a lovely essay recently about the unknown on her phlog. She reflected on the many uncertainties in recent complex discussions in the Wikimedia universe.

It reminded me that gaining familiarity with the unknown, and an ability to grapple with unknowns without losing all direction or perspective, is a most valuable skill.

We would ideally be able to highlight large areas that are unknown, to label them, to include them as variables in even larger equations and balanced. Indeed, we should be able to derive some of their properties befor they are understood in fine detail.

Moving from working only with known quantities to working with unknowns was an essential stepping stone towards developing most of modern mathematics, and much scientific reasoning. This may apply no less to areas of social and civic growth.