2 minute read

“Ignoramus” (“We don’t know”, Latin)

Every now and again, there is a gate keeping post or an article by someone high up in tech that tries to make them look smart. Sometimes it’s about “speaking and dressing properly”. Sometimes about the required credentials to become an engineer or anything else. I understand that these insecurities come in many forms. Since I’ve been reading and listening a lot about the history of humanity lately, I’m starting to connect dots in my head.

The scientific revolution that started in the 1500s relied on the notion of ignoramus. Accepting that we don’t know everything (or anything at all like Socrates) but we are open to learn about it. Mental health is being discussed in the open for the past couple of years. And the impostor syndrome came out as something normal that people don’t have to be afraid of. Each one of us has our traits, flaws, interests and triggers, which may or may not be like others’. It’s easy to forget that the people around us are as insecure as we are about the same (or different) things in their lives. These gate keeping discussions flare up people’s impostor syndromes and make them even more insecure.

Since gate keeping is strong in the IT sector, we need to announce that most of us, most of the time aren’t doing anything that smart. Your experience as an engineer grows when you seek out to explore other areas of business, to understand why and what you are doing. Sure, we need the dark matter programmers who get the nitty gritty jobs done. Since I’m a strong believer in the growth mindset and lifelong learning, we have to accept that we know nothing (and publicly praise it as the norm) to start learning.

“Ipse se nihil scire id unum sciat” (“I know that I know nothing”, Latin)

In Plato’s writings, Socrates said that the only thing he knows is that he knows nothing. The famous skill of maieutics (the Socratic method) guides us from the ignoramus place to where we understand that this is not true. But we have to accept our ignorance to be able to learn. All scientific theories are open to be disproven if you can provide a valid scenario which disproves the theory. Or you can further harden the theory by finding an unknown scenario that proves it.

As some people are aware of, learning doesn’t stop when you finish high-school, college, or phd. Your learning journey should begin at that moment when you leave formal education behind you. We all like to get lulled into a false security that we are done with learning and can start earning now. This might have been true for some of our grandparents (and sometimes parents) who finished their schools, got a job in one company and became lifers. This is at least how it was here in the communist Yugoslavia before the war.

When you grow up in such a system, it’s hard to break free from the fixed mindset it teaches people. This fixed mindset mentality permeated through upbringing because of the above mentioned reason. Admitting that you don’t know something or that something is your fault was unimaginable. We all need to struggle hard to make everyone comfortable here, different people, with different experiences. Those people are usually gate-kept from entering a certain workforce. And we need those people if we want to grow ourselves.