Dunno, next

Do you enjoy having a clear opinion?


Evolutionarily, there is nothing strange about it, but sometimes it is better to give space to uncertainty. An unalterable opinion makes you feel that you fully understand what is happening, which doesn't motivate you to look for alternatives. On the contrary, the willingness to admit that you may not know the right answer (if it exists at all) is more likely to lead to curiosity, the ability to listen and learn.


We all know this well from communication with people - if we internally classify someone on the basis of a few facts, and we are not willing to question this image, we will probably not connect very deeply. However, if we give up our opinion for a while, openly express our sincere interest and ask good questions, we can appreciate all the nuances instead of stereotypes. Usually we find that we have seen a false or too simplified version of the other person, and the whole interaction can be taken to the next level.


I often encounter the phenomenon of not knowing when solving problems - whether mathematical, cryptographic or hacking ones. But it is most evident in research, which is based on knowledge gaps by its very nature. It is usually not possible to just sift through a new article (even in the area that one focuses on) if you are trying to understand every bit of information linearly. Instead, you need to find the courage to grope in the dark and look for the clues that will best illuminate your path. And when you get to the end, you may find that you took several wrong turns, because you had a slightly different model of the whole situation in your head the whole time.


Achieving a sufficient level of understanding therefore often requires, besides patience, a considerable dose of humility and self-compassion (screams like "I should know this a long time ago!" surprisingly do not help at all). But the result is worth it and the journey can teach you a lot. And embarking into unexplored wilderness, knowing that some of your thoughts are thought for the first time ever, or at least no one has properly finalized them yet... Well, that's where the real fun begins.


The ability to realize what you don't know about the area yet, or which of your assumptions could be generalized/changed/deleted, is a great source of stimulating questions for future research. And this goes far beyond science - you can also reflect on yourself and your surroundings in the same way.


The principle of not knowing also often occurs, for example, in art, improvisation, meditation, and in general in areas related to creativity. There, it tends to have a slightly different flavor - the emphasis is more on non-evaluation, spontaneity and listening to intuition. One may even perceive these elements in some transcendent sense, but personally I do not see anything mystical in listening to the inner voice of our subconsciousness - after all, these are just physiological processes with physical representation, just a little different than rational thinking. In today's fast-paced world, however, practicing deceleration and awareness offers a number of benefits.


I realize that not having a firm opinion is not quite popular socially - one is then perceived as insecure, weak and prone tomanipulation, especially in politics and other publicly exposed posts. But history shows that the opposite alternative can be much worse. Maybe as a society we should wonder if this is the message we want to send. If we want to continue prioritizing self-confidence, marketing, and populism over circumspection, deliberation, and critical discussions. If sometimes it's not better not to know.


I don't want this post to sound like it is not appropriate to have your own opinion - that would be absurd. I just believe that we need to be more aware of where we are qualified to make good decisions and where we should tread carefully (as our knowledge is definitely not automatically transferred to other domains). Of course, there is the opposite problem, where people with the given expertise are too conservative in their estimates, but I do not see it as that painful, as it is easier to solve in general (which does not mean that a small calibration towards a healthy balance would be detrimental).


Nor do I claim that in the context of insufficient knowledge, it is a mistake to form an opinion - I just consider it appropriate to assign it a degree of certainty that you are willing to further adjust based on further new knowledge and arguments. Thinking about what would make you change your level of certainty can be quite valuable. And it's also a good heuristic for the opinions of others - their answer to this question can offer a good insight into how they think about the whole issue.


If you are still rock-solid in your belief, then you should carefully make sure that you are your toughest critic, know the best counter-arguments, and it still make sense to you. In short, that you have "earned" the right to such certainty. I am at least 90% convinced of that. Though I'm open to discussion. ;)