Nonsense – The Power of Not Knowing

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“I’ll hope to convince you of a simple claim: in an increasingly complex, unpredictable world, what matters most isn’t IQ, willpower, or confidence in what we know. It’s how we deal with what we don’t understand.”

– Jamie Holmes

Nonsense – The Power of Not Knowing

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This book is one the most intriguing and thought provoking books I’ve read in a long time. Nonsense: The Power of Not Knowing was written about exactly that, uncertainty and how it affects our consciousness.

Nonsense The Power of Not Knowing is a 300+ page book, divided into 9 chapters, it combines multiple cognitive hypothesis gyrating the perceptions we have and why we have them. It also shows the importance of having ambiguity in our lives as it helps us in all aspects of life including entrepreneurship, education, medicine etc.

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The author, Jamie Holmes, was a research coordinator at Harvard, working in the department of economics and it should come as no surprise that Holmes presents us with well researched information in this book, which supports his views.

With the wealth of examples Holmes provides in this book, it helps the reader to understand themselves more as well as others. In this sense it’s a modern handbook for understanding different perspectives and how different people analyze and react in ambiguous environments, including why individuals act the way they do. The fact that all individuals interpret events differently is nothing new and when this is combined with an exploration into why humans seek out comfort instead of using a certain power that the unknown brings.

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Uncertainty is the engine of science – Jamie Holmes

Jamie Holmes Nonsense - The Power of Not KnowingHolmes argues that we often strive for closure whereas confusion can be just as, if not more, pleasing. How can there be power in not knowing? It’s simple really, or after reading this book it became clear, when we are swarmed with situations that are new to us, we can take this opportunity to tackle the problem with our creativity to solve them.

Many of us, without knowing it are trapped in our comfort zones and would never dare to courageously walk the line of uncertainty. However, there can be no doubt that creativity can lead to better solutions in the face of conflict. We don’t have to suffer the negative effects that uncertainty brings, I think Holmes says it best in this quote:

“The mind state caused by ambiguity is called uncertainty, and its an emotional amplifier. It makes anxiety more agonizing, and pleasure especially enjoyable. The delight of crossword puzzles, for example, comes from pondering and resolving ambiguous clues. Detective stories, among the most successful literary genres of all time, concoct their suspense by sustaining uncertainty about hints and culprits. Mind-bending modern art, the multiplicities of poetry, Lewis Carrolls riddles, magical realism, Kafkas existential satire ambiguity saturates our art forms and masterpieces, suggesting its deeply emotional nature. Goethe once said that what we agree with leaves us inactive, but contradiction makes us productive. So it is with ambiguity.”

The presentation of the information in the form of stories makes Nonsense: The Power of Not Knowing a masterpiece and if you have an interest in psychology and venturing out into the unknown, this is a must-read. It’s full of paradoxes that borders on existentialism, if it doesn’t improve the way you react in situations, it will definitely provide you with an understanding of the human psyche.

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