Irreducible Knowledge

I've been noticing lately that I spend a sizable portion of my workday conveying information that gets misunderstood. Not just misunderstood like one of us didn't read the entire email, but literally the party I'm trying to convey information to doesn't have the requisite knowledge to really understand what I'm trying to get across. It sounds condescending - it's not meant to be. We all exhibit this, just in different knowledge areas. 

Below is a clip of the physicist Richard Feyman explaining the issue to a journalist who's just asked him a question the journalist can't understand the answer to because they don't understand basic physics, so instead of answering the question Mr. Feyman (a bit pedantically) explains the difficulty of conveying answers to someone who doesn't posses the requisite building blocks of knowledge in that area.

Most of the articles I read everyday are on subjects of which I'm not an expert, but often they touch on knowledge areas that I've studied and have a degree in - which isn't that important but it's to say I've taken all the foundational classes. What strikes me is that often these articles that deal with technical subjects, the two most notable offenders are economics and nutrition articles, will deal with fairly high level concepts - the stuff of 400 level classes, but they often do so while misunderstanding the basics, the irreducible facts. You can't write a piece on a low carb diet if you don't deeply understand macronutrients. It'd be disingenuous. It's like me writing an opinion piece in a law case when I barely understand the difference between criminal and civil law.

The internet is a boon for the intellectually curious but I often wonder if it gives us a false sense of knowledge. The traditional model of schooling is largely outmoded. Yet, it's difficult to accumulate the basic building blocks of a subject purely through our own research. That's changing with outlets like the Khan Academy and similar. It still leaves me wondering why we're so prone to this this type of error and how we can convey ideas to those outside of our knowledge areas.

The piece that inspired this article, which I missed the boat in commenting on, is an article on economic inequality by Paul Graham. I admire Mr. Graham very much. His essay How To Disagree is essential reading, but I think he misses some basic points of macroeconomics in his inequality article. That someone who is so clearly highly intelligent and deeply introspective troubles me because it suggests this is something we are all prone to.