Self-aware. Self conscious. Self induced.

Posts tagged “knowledge

Systems of Knowledge

Technology introduces new systems of knowledge and destroys old ones.

It doesn’t mean to, it just does. Plaster, for example. Plaster is harder to work with and more time consuming than drywall, even though it is arguably a better material. However, drywall is easier to work with. On the other hand, plaster lets you create coved ceiling, which is harder to do with drywall, especially on smaller scales (no matter what these guys say – though it’s still an informative video).

I know how to work with cedar shingles, but instead of doing a shingle-by-shingle, 5″ exposure, I’m installing them in 8′ panels. The stuff that we’ve now ripped off the house, as bad shape as it’s in on the surface, those layers of shingles are still solid on the bottom. They’re still doing their job. Essentially the way traditional cedar shingle work is through two layers of overlap. Each shingle is approximately 15-16″ long. The second layer leaves the bottom 5″ of the lowest layer exposed, leaving 10″ underneath the second layer. The third layer covers 10″ of the second layer and 5″ of the first. The fourth covers 10″ of the third and five of the second. And so on. So there’s a lot of protection. It’s also very, very time consuming. And if you paint or seal only the exterior face, you can encourage warping in the material.

The stuff I’m using is stained on both sides, then attached to a sheet of plywood with a layer of fiberglass matting in between. I love this idea. It goes up faster. The shingles will last longer. And the more people do this, the fewer people will know how to install regular shingles.

It’s not the shingles themselves that are the problem. Honestly, there isn’t a problem here at all. It’s only that I’ve never been a first-hand witness to one system of knowledge (panels) encroaching upon another (shingles). As the guy who bought and loves the panels, I’m a little sad to see how fewer people will know how to do the old stuff that led to this innovation. They’ll co-exist for a long, long time and there will be places in the world that still only do shingles, blah blah blah.

I know. It’s not a big deal. It’s a little deal. And it’s just a little sad.

and up and up


I’ve been thinking about all of the different ways I can manage not to know something this summer. Now autumn.

I can have absolutely no experience (the “negative frame” I wrote about here), and therefore lack the means to process properly what’s going on.

I can misinterpret something and draw the wrong knowledge as a conclusion (it’s sunny outside, it must be warm. Relevant, ignored factor: I’m in Minnesota).

I can misapply knowledge and come to the wrong conclusion. My Ph.D. carpenter boss used to distinguish between “categorical errors,” in which you simply take the wrong set of information and which are easily corrected, with “perceptual errors,” which are more fundamental and have to do with world view. As a categorical error, there’s me doing the books for my old carpentry company and correcting them with a CPA. I consistently categorized three different entries badly – but each of the three could be remedied by one overarching “fix.” I was using the program incorrectly, but always in the same way. As a perceptual error, I offer my first encounter with spinach. I assumed I liked spinach, and lots of please, mom, thank you, mmmmm, because Popeye ate it several times a day in my TV-watching experience.

I never trusted Popeye again.

I can not know how to do something. I can not know a person.

I remember studying the immune system in high school biology and discovering the marvel of defense that it is, and wondering, “how do we ever get sick?” We followed this with a unit on viruses, prompting me to wonder, “how is it that we’re not all dead?” And for all I read, for all I listen to news, radio, for all I watch, I feel vaguely overwhelmed by all of the things I don’t know and the ways in which I do not know them.

And I’m thinking that maybe not knowing is the best place to be. Because today things might be different.