Knowing the Knowns and Known Unknowns

“There are known knowns. These are things we know that we know. There are known unknowns. That is to say, there are things that we know we don’t know. But there are also unknown unknowns. There are things we don’t know we don’t know.”

– Donald Rumsfeld

Tomorrow, Tuesday, 8 November 2016, is Election Day in the US. Either the Democratic or the Republican party’s candidate will receive the majority of the popular vote and be elected the next president.

Those are “known knowns”, right? Wrong, they are really “known unknowns”.

We know it’s unknown if there will even be a tomorrow (anything can happen to any or all of us between now and a tomorrow); we know it’s highly unlikely, but it’s unknown if one of the two minority parties on the ballot might not somehow pull off an unprecedented upset; we know the candidate with the most popular votes doesn’t automatically win, the President is chosen by majority vote of the 538 members of the Electoral College (a number equal to the 435 US Representatives, plus 100 Senators, plus 3 for the District of Columbia) – or, in the event theirs is a tie vote, the US House of Representitives will choose who will be President (and it doesn’t necessarily have to be any one of the candidates – it could be me. [Thanks, but no thanks.] And if they somehow tie…oh, never mind) – and one can only predict, but it’s really unknown how that will go. Until it’s known.

Are there any “unknown unknowns” in this election?

How could one know? If something is unknown, how much more – to what degree – could it be more unknowable, beyond knowing there is the unknowable?

Confused? I am, but probably no more so than the average voter trying to know which unknown to vote for (I mean, really, how well do we really know any candidate, other than their public personna and the alleged dirt the opposition claims to have found on their opponent?)

The only “known known”, evidently, is that the majority of American voters don’t like, trust or want either candidate to be elected (but do we know how accurate/truthful polls are? It’s a “known unknown” whom one can trust.)

All I know is I know that I’d rather not know who wins.

But it’s a “known known” (at least to me) that I can’t not know, I do follow the news after all. And I’m pretty sure it’s a “known known” the media will report the results, just as its felt the need to report all the negative aspects of this especially ugly campaign season (because it’s a “known known” that crime and slime is what sells, that people aren’t interested in what nice and good happens.)

So. We know our “known knowns” and “known unknowns”. But are there any “unknown unknowns” we should worry about as a result of this election?

If there are I know we’ll find out pretty soon and then they’ll be “known knowns”.

And then the only “known unknown” we’ll have is figuring out what we need to know, to do it better in four years.

– Bill


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