Posts Tagged ‘known unknowns’

What you don’t know you don’t know…

October 6, 2010

A recent conversation with a scientific researcher reminded me of a memorable statement by past Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld:

There are known knowns. These are things we know that we know. There are known unknowns. That is to say, there are things that we know we don’t know. But there are also unknown unknowns. There are things we don’t know we don’t know.

This researcher and I were talking about the “next big thing”. What would it be? Sustainable nuclear fusion? A cancer vaccine?

“I suspect that it will be something completely different and unexpected. What? I don’t know…” I said. And in that moment, I recalled Rumsfeld’s remark. There are unknown unknowns, and in that realm there are discoveries and “big things” tomorrow that we can’t quite conceive of today.

A pet project of mine is contextual computing and intelligent agents. My disappointment in these areas is the limitation that we can only deal with the known knowns and the known unknowns. As such, there is little “wow” factor in these areas today, and there is relatively little consumer interest or commercialization that has made a mark in the market – there is no perceived “magic”. But, that’s not to say that is no opportunity…

I’m working on it – the next “big thing” – but, it probably won’t be too terribly big…

Stay tuned!