Metacognition is thinking about thinking. Metacognitive miscalibration (MM) is a nice way of describing stupidity.

The September 2005 issue (vol. 48, no. 9) of Communications of the ACM includes a great article by Deborah K. Smith, Trevor Moores, and Jerry Chang titled Prepare Your Mind for Learning. The following is a summary of the of the articles main points.

P. G. Armour defines five orders of ignorance:

  • 0OI: absence of ignorance, everything is known
  • 1OI: recognized lack of knowledge, know that something is not known
  • 2OI: unrecognized lack of knowledge, don't know something is not known
  • 3OI: no process for recognizing ignorance, don't know how to determine if something is not known
  • 4OI: meta-ignorance, ignorance of the orders of ignorance

Learning can take place only from first order ignorance, or 1OI, one must recognize ignorance exists before it can be eliminated.

Second order ignorance is true cluelessness: you don't know that you don't know.

George Leonard profiles four different types of learners:

  1. Dabblers are the jack of all trades, master of none (2OI)
  2. Hackers are content to reach a plateau and stay there (2OI)
  3. Obsessives can never learn enough fast enough, they rise quickly and burn out (3OI)
  4. Masters understand the value of the plateau secure in the knowledge that there is more to learn at its end

To achieve 0OI, first eliminate 3OI by developing a process for recognizing 2OI, then apply that process to eliminate 2OI. Of course, this assumes you accept that you might be miscalibrated or at least ignorant.

  • Cultivate a beginners mind
  • Question your knowledge
  • Seek criticism of your work
  • Review the work of others
  • Teach
  • Relish the plateau