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Knowing Nothing

I don't know anything

I'm sure professionals must hear that phrase semi-regularly. Because as one of my clients likes to say:

You don't know, what you don't know.

But you should know - that is how everything starts. That's why schools try to fill your head with information and processes. Why older people give you the benefit of their experience from when they were young. After all, when you don't know, all you have a guesses/assumptions.

Consider the person who first found crude oil. "Ooo, think black water-ish stuff. Smells bad. Animals avoid it. Probably shouldn't drink it." Or perhaps they dared some poor sucker to drink it first?

Lots of observations there, followed up with an assumption. Then curiosity steps in. "I wonder what would happen if I put it on things?", "I wonder what happens if I boil it?", "Oh no! I spilt it on the flames and it burnt." … "I wonder what happens if I light it intentionally?", "Oh, I see, it burns well!"

Testing, testing, accidental discovery, realisation.

Application would be next: "What can I use that for?" Or perhaps resolving a need: "I need something to give me light at night… OH! That's right, that black stuff burns, that'll work."

Now consider a car. The engine makes it go, because when the engine is off, it doesn't "go". The question then should be, how do the engine's efforts get to the wheels? We know where the wheels are, we know where the engine is. There has to be something that joins them together, and splits the engine's work up to the driving wheels.

The wheels go up and down on bumps, so they can't use a chain from above or the chain would come off. You also you can't see a chain like you can on motorbikes. So it must come in via those axles you've heard so much about.

I could go on and on, pile up examples below... but to the relief of many, I won't.

Ok, but this is an IT website, do you have a point?

You got me, I have a point. My point is: Don't be afraid to experiment & even break the IT thing. Lots of knowledge comes from breaking "testing" things. Even the state of the art large hadron collider does this. The scientists there are smashing things together at atomic levels.

But before you take a hammer to your brand new device, I'll be clear - I'm not talking about inappropriate use. If you can "break" it by what could be considered normal use, then something has gone wrong before you got to it. And that, is outside of your control.

My mum was involved in creating the original business computing syllabus for TAFE NSW, on the first mainframe in the TAFE system. While we may raise an eyebrow and think that may have been exciting - I'm fairly sure she has IT related PTSD. The system was a mess. You would follow the operational rules, and daily the whole system would fall over. She still looks at computers and cannot bring herself to experiment or explore. So when she hits a roadblock, she stops. (Although, she is getting better. Hooray for her!)

What she dealt with there was normal use ending in "breaking" something. This is a part of discovery. If you come across something like this, don't assume it's failure on your part. Developers aren't perfect. In fact most of the time they would like to know how you broke their creation.

Have you ever asked yourself how children are so at home with and good at using modern computing? It's because they use it with reckless abandon. They try stuff, get mixed results and then learn and move on from there.

As I wrote earlier: testing, testing, accidental discovery, realisation.

(That said, be smart about it - backup your data)