Being an Adult

By Arvind Narayanan

When I was a student I thought professors are people who know lots of stuff. Then they went and made me a professor. After getting over my terror of not knowing stuff, I realized I had it all wrong. Here are a bunch of things that are far more important than how much you know.

Knowing what you know and what you don’t know.

  • Being good at teaching what you know.
  • Being comfortable with saying you don’t know.
  • Admitting when you realize you got something wrong.
  • Effectively communicating uncertainty when necessary.

Spotting BS.

  • Recognizing others with expertise.
  • Recognizing that there are different domains of expertise.
  • Recognizing that there are different kinds of expertise including lived experience.
  • Drawing from others’ expertise without deferring to authority.

Accepting the unknowable.

(this one’s my favorite)

There’s so much we simply can’t know in our present state of understanding. But we seem to be wired to seek explanations, so pseudo-experts take advantage of us. Let’s fight this bias because it’s at the root of many problems.