what do you know?

I hope we get to a future where people are allowed to be epistemically humble ~ Geoffrey Miller on The Joe Rogan Experience

Phrase of the day – epistemically humble. What a lovely phrase. I had to look it up, of course. Socrates was a huge fan of epistemic humility.

“The only thing I know is that I know nothing”.


I think what it boils down to, is not being afraid to be wrong. To be curious and ask questions. It speaks to the benefit of being open to change, being prepared to listen and learn.

If you’ve read a few of my blog posts or if you know me personally, you’ll know I love a good podcast. My mate Kate introduced me to podcasts a few weeks after I met her and I was too dumb to press that little purple icon on my phone until almost two years later! Seriously there is no traffic jam that can frustrate me as long as I have a podcast to listen to! I’ve more than made up for lost time – I am obsessed. I have to force myself to go to the grocery shop without my headphones because it takes me too long to shop when I’m not paying attention to what I am doing. I’m obsessed with how little I know about the world. Obsessed with everything I need to learn.

“Anyone who isn’t embarrassed of who they were last year probably isn’t learning enough.”

― Alain de Botton

Embarrassed? Hell yes! I know I shouldn’t but I look back and think argh – I was such a know-it-all-dumbass! And for sure I’m going to look back in a year and think gah – how could I have thought like that? Who wrote this stupid blog?

But I plow on. Listening, reading, writing… I so wish I’d kept writing in my 20s, kept up the sad little blog I started in my 30s… And why oh why didn’t I listen to Kate about the podcasts??? aarrggghhhh – It makes me so mad that it took me so long. It’s not like I wasn’t learning; I was learning French… again. (Major Bucket list item here – Oh god, will I ever be able to speak French fluently?) I was doing a lot of yoga and I read a lot of fiction. At the end of my stressful workdays, the last thing I wanted to do was listen to two guys discuss the ramifications of AI for the sex industry! I am not kidding – this is a subject Geoffrey Miller and Joe Rogan talked about on today’s listening goodness. Who knew that someone is opening a robot brothel in Texas. See now we both know. We didn’t know that we needed to know…but somehow the world is a better place that we do…

okay so that’s debatable, but I do learn a lot of really interesting stuff! Stuff that I can use in my writing! Stuff that I didn’t know I needed to know.

A few years before I dived into podcasts, my friend Kim suggested I read MK Hume’s Merlin and Arthur trilogies. Marilyn Hume was our English teacher at highschool and the books are riveting. I’d always read biographies and travel stories and it took me until my forties to embrace fiction again.

I read everything I could get my hands on as a teenager. I would take the train after school into the city and borrow as many books as I could carry. There are novels that still stand out in my mind from this period. Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451, Paul Zindel’s The Pigman and My Darling, My Hamburger and The Bonfire of the Vanities by Tom Wolfe.

Have you ever read Paul Zindel’s work? Here’s an excerpt from enotes that pretty much sums him up.

Zindel was (again) concerned with four basic themes—identity and meaning, the questioning of traditional values, the loneliness of the individual, and the difficulty of communication. My Darling, My Hamburger goes beyond these concerns to deal with subjects such as casual sex, the use of contraceptives, and abortion as an alternative to unwanted pregnancies. These subjects are dealt with realistically and with candor.


Blimey, I don’t think my mum knew what I was reading because I am sure she would have burned the book, even if it was from the library! She always accused me of ‘getting my ideas from somewhere’. If only she knew.

I’ve blogged before on what we don’t know. Normally we don’t know what we don’t know, but the curious, the epistemically humble know that they don’t know enough and constantly strive to learn more.

I was at a dinner party recently with a couple of guys who knew stuff. One, in particular, dominated the ‘conversation’ with racist rants that even ventured into Holocaust minimiser territory. WTF dude? I didn’t interrupt him because it was Christmas and he was so certain of his rightness. We could all do with a good dose of epistemic humility.

Shakespeare said it best –

God, what a rambling post. I’ve been at work all day, and I am a little brain dead. Let me summarise. No one knows everything. Learning is important. If you don’t know what to learn follow your curiosity. We have two ears and one mouth so we should do twice as much listening as talking. Books are good. Podcasts are good too.

Over and Out.