[Re:Framed] Unknown Unknowns


Recently, there was a required reading for my English class talking about Anosognosia and “Unknown Unknowns.” It was a blog post written by my English teacher, “Anosognosia: The Word School Leaders, Innovators, and Reformers Must Learn.” The post was based off of an article written by Errol Morris on The New York Times.  The overall idea is that there are certain things we know, certain things we know we don’t know, and certain things that we don’t know we don’t know. Well, what does that have anything to do with us?

From the reading, “Ignorance is Bliss” is a saying that can be thrown out the window. Anosognosia is a deficit of self-awareness. Someone who suffers from the disability is unaware that they suffer from it. The disability itself is an unknown unknown. A person suffering from it wouldn’t even know such a thing exists. What is the difference between an known unknown and an unknown unknown? Well, here’s an example.

There was a certain English Honors 2 class that had a certain reading that a certain student did not read. However, the student was somewhat aware of the said reading having it previously mentioned before. So along comes test day in which fellow peers of the student are frantically mentioning a blog post from the reading that may be needed. The student now knows what she does not know. She does not know what the reading was about. At all. So when the student received her test, she is baffled.

An unknown unknown can be clearly demonstrated in the Sophocles play Oedipus Rex. Talk about before, my English class was also reading Oedipus. The Anosognosia articles were brought up in relation to the plays. Oedipus is King of Thebes and living the high class life, but little does he know his life is a horrible turn of events. Completely unaware of his situation, he lives his life. This is an unknown unknown. Something you don’t even know you don’t know. I used to go on Omg-Facts often, a website that constantly post new and interesting facts about things you wouldn’t even know you don’t know.

In Oedipus’s case, it might have been better for him to just never find out about how his life is a disaster. He could’ve continued living on happily ruling over Thebes. However, how can we speak no evil, see no evil, and hear no evil if we don’t even know we’re surrounded by it?


Ignorance = Arrogance. When we don’t know what we don’t know, we think we know everything. In the sermon I heard earlier, it was mentioned that if you think you got it, you really don’t. The example used was when adults learn how to swim. They’re in the 3 feet side of the pool thinking they know how to swim but when they go to the deep end, they start to sink and flail around. An unknown unknown to them is that there is a process to swimming. Breathing techniques, turning your head, moving your arms, and kicking your feet all part of the process. My pastor even told us that when he asks someone to lead and they immediately say “Yes, I can do this. I am absolutely ready for the job,” then maybe he’ll start reconsidering.

Similarly, many people out there think they have all the answers to life. Those are the people who have little answers to life at all. People who think that what they’re doing is perfect, they are blind to the incredible amount of turn of events that could happen. Event planning is something that would involve all three types of knowledge. What you know is used to create this event, making it run as efficiently as possible. What you know you don’t know is already accounted for. Maybe you have an extra tire just in case your car breaks down or an extra microphone just in case of technical difficulties. You don’t know what will happen, but you know these are things you don’t know. You are able to prepare. Now unknown unknowns may show up like an annoying turkey and surprise you. What if there was all of a sudden a parade dedicated to the appreciation of giraffes that would last three days long and contain floats that take up the entire street. Your wedding requires all your guests to move from the wedding chapel to a nice hotel for the reception. What are you going to do? The unknown unknown here is the parade. You can’t prepare for unknown unknowns.


So those who aren’t aware of unknown unknowns are arrogant but those who are aware that there are things they don’t know are self-conscious and have little confidence in themselves. They overthink of the possibilities that could happen and they get discouraged because they don’t know what to do. So what do you do? You become aware to know of those unknown unknowns. Never stop learning and keep trying to find out new things. You never know when certain knowledge might help you in life.



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