L'ignorance est-elle une bénédiction ?

L'ère de l'homme de la Renaissance est révolue depuis longtemps. Personne ne pense plus qu'un individu est capable d'appréhender de manière exhaustive tous les domaines de la science et de la technologie. Les logiciels populaires contiennent des millions de lignes de codes. La description des mécanismes de réponse du système immunitaire à un seul genre de lymphocyte nécessite des pages entières de publications érudites. L'apparence sobre et élégante d'un iPod cache une technologie que seul un minuscule pourcentage de ses utilisateurs est à même de comprendre.

Cependant, en dépit du vaste inachèvement de notre savoir, des recherches récentes suggèrent que la plupart des gens pensent qu'ils en savent bien plus qu'en réalité. Si nous admettons facilement ne pas tout savoir sur la façon dont vole un hélicoptère ou sur le fonctionnement d'une presse typographique, nous ne sommes pas si modestes que cela face à notre ignorance.

La plus simple façon de le démontrer est de demander à des gens de noter l'exhaustivité de leurs connaissances sur une échelle allant de 1 à 7. Pour toute question, 7 dénote l'équivalent d'un schéma mental parfaitement détaillé, et 1 implique une absence presque totale de compréhension d'un quelconque mécanisme, juste une vague image. Les candidats répondent volontiers et de bonne foi en notant leur niveau de compréhension de tout, des machines complexes aux systèmes biologiques en passant par des phénomènes naturels comme les marées ; mais les notes attribuées sont généralement bien supérieures à l'état réel de leurs connaissances.

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