Sunday, February 19, 2012

Unknown Knowns & Unknown Unknowns to solve Known Unknowns

There is a 4X4 matrix -

1. Known Knowns - Solutions exist as of today and we know the solution. Example - we know the Television or Internet works

2. Unknown Knowns - Solutions exist as of today but many people do not know due to lack of interdisciplinary application oriented collaboration - example we may know how to treat cancer using super-foods but many cancer patient do not know it due to lack of knowledge sharing(may be intentional push by pharma lobby)

3. Known Unknowns - We know the problem & we know we do not have a solution yet. Example - Game theory Problems

4. Unknown Unknowns - We even don't know what we don't know. Example - Nick Bostrom on new dimensions of human experience

I think we need to concentrate on Unknown Knowns & Unknown Unknowns to solve Known Unknowns. Let's explore.

Importance of Unknown Knowns - 

We are under-utilizing human potential and not attacking big problems in a systematic way. We are wasting many human minds in pushing them to do things which can be avoided. Lack of collaboration & information exchange is a huge problem. Multiple people working on same issues - synergy, information sharing & collaboration between all these people can create magic. 

Huge amount of human knowledge has been created over time - we till now we have not managed that knowledge properly. There are so many Journals, IPs, Patents created - but we still don't have an effective way to explore these. I am aware of Patent Search and other Internet Searches - but many of the times the access is limited available to Subject SMEs or they are so technical people from other backgrounds can not appreciate the wisdom. We need a platform for easy to understand knowledge sharing so that people from cross-functional background can appreciate and apply those thoughts. I am not suggesting we will not allow monetization of patents but rather we need to push for better utilization of those IPs(Knowledge available in Patents & Research Journals).

I have gut feel if we can just improve on the area of Knowledge exchange and application of that knowledge across different domains we will be able to solve many Known Unkowns - probably there are many solutions already existing but we don't know that they exist.

I am yet to find such a platform at a large global scale but there are some model platforms(such as TED and Edge) which can be scaled up to provide the needed support.

Importance of Unknown Unknowns - 

Probably there are many things we don't even know exists and finding those can help in solving problems we don't have a solution yet. I am suggesting the application of disruptive new findings in a completely different(cross functional) domain.

As this article suggests many of our problems can not be solved by just improving the existing technologies - we need a generation of disruptive scientists. We need to fund those big, promising but not necessarily money making research activities. This is challenging when funding is scarce, judging a new scientist's capability is tough and there is no guarantee that the research project will really have any meaningful benefit. One solution to that problem can be allocating resources(funding and best quality people) to experimental projects in an International collaboration model to solve the big problems challenging our society. This is high-risk-high-reward effort and hence it needs appropriate scale and risk-reward sharing. I strongly feel start-ups & market based innovation is not appropriate for this kind of projects and need backup and collaboration from governments. Many people can consider this crazy(considering the poor knowledge, decision-making & goodwill of our national leaders and government bureaucratic processes) but remember Manhattan Project would not be possible by a single company. 

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