We do not know – and this is a great insight; that we do not know – (from Sapiens by Yuval Noah Harari)

SapiensI have finished my careful reading of Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind by Yuval Noah Harari. Reading this book made me feel like quite an ignoramus.

It turns out that that is a good thing – to be an ignoramus. From the book:

Modern science is based on the Latin injunction ignoramus – ‘we do not know.’ It assumes that we don’t know everything. Even more critically, it accepts that the things that we think we know could be proven wrong as we gain more knowledge. No concept, idea or theory is sacred and beyond challenge.

I found this book to be an assault on my ignorance in multiple ways. But it is this insight – that the starting point to progress was that “we do not know” — was profound insight indeed. (He named this chapter of his book “The Discovery of Ignorance” by the way).

There is so much that we do not know. And, each time we learn something new, there is someone else reminding us that there are limits to and blindspots in even what we’ve just learned.

We do not know! And knowing that we do not know is a powerful starting point.

Progress begins from ignorance. And to make progress, we have to acknowledge our own ignorance.

In so many ways, in so many arenas, we are all ignoramuses. Embrace this in yourself – it might open up the pathway in your own pursuit of new knowledge.


I am presenting my synopsis of Sapiens, and Man’s Search for Meaning at our first “The Great Books Book Synopsis” this Friday in Dallas. (Register here through September 14).

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