In this class we have been told to listen to the public and take their knowledge seriously. I completely understand the value of this, but the problem I have is how do you know who to listen to when so many people are clueless to important issues. I know this sounds harsh but we all know it’s true.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=q-K_Cyxjf8A <– A person is smart, people are dumb
I know this clip from Men in Black is from a slightly fictional movie, but I think it still holds true. There are examples of people being stupid or ignorant all around us. Here is another funny video from Jimmy Kimmel showing how little people know about a hot topic in US politics.
So lets say, that for some reason I’m an engineer reaching out to learn what the public thinks about the health care act. After talking to people like the ones above why should I trust public opinion at all? Or worse yet, what if I don’t understand the issue and turn to one of these people for advise on the topic? If I trust their “knowledge” I will be greatly mislead in this issue.
I guess that if we take the lessons learned from this class, the answer may be that you have to listen to everyone and try to extract any useful information from everyone. But it’s hard to extract knowledge when you don’t know yourself. As was said at a conference I recently attended, it’s not the known unknowns that are most dangerous, it’s the unknown unknowns. Meaning if I realize that I didn’t get the whole picture from someone then I am in a better position than if I think I have gotten an accurate picture from someone who is mistaken on the topic.
What do you guys think? How do we weed through public misperceptions and ignorance to extract useful knowledge from them?