The African Enterprise (30/08/2021)

The fragility of our knowledge, Precise Learning, Africa's oldest canoe.

Hi friends,

Greeting from Abuja. I'm excited to send this to you just as August fades into September and we get the ball rolling on the final four of 2021.

Last week, I visited an Arts and History Museum for the first time since I moved to Abuja earlier this year. It was a rich experience journeying through times in African and Nigerian History. The most noteworthy experience was in the War room with a VR visit to a camp for people displaced from war-torn areas. The visit was preceded by a conversation with the guide about most conflicts between groups being based on minor alterations to the same general needs. In a previous email, I shared my tweet about misunderstandings being scrambles of a starting state of understanding.

I also shared my essay on Sigmund Freud's Narcissism of small differences. The essay was based on some issues we had at work at the start of the pandemic. Despite all our problems at the time, we saw in a zoomed-out picture that we wanted the same thing.

Read the essay here.


Coolest things I learned this week

The fragility of our knowledge

In Black swan, Nassim Taleb writes about how one single observation can invalidate a general statement derived from millennia of accumulated confirmatory knowledge. For example, every sighting of a swan - millions of them - has been of a white bird. Then the one sighting of a black swan invalidates the belief that swans are white.

Last week, I shared the idea for an essay I hope will be published this week. The idea is based on a quote that: questions without answers are better than answers without questions. Part of why some answers are never questioned is because there's just no reason to. If everyone who has seen a swan sees a white bird, that’s the answer everyone holds. There's no reason to question it. To hold onto the existence of a black swan.

Our knowledge is fragile because there are things we believe are answers that have never been questioned. A belief passed from immediate society to person, and from person to person.

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Precise Learning

Another interesting idea I got from Black swan is that: We tend to learn the precise, not the general.

Most traditional education teaches precise, deemed worthy, information. It is partly because it is harder to grade people on general aspects of knowledge development, and because we have a bias towards what we know. Most educators I've come across use lesson notes as old as their careers because of inherent, and human, focus - often excessive - on what they know.

We want to continue learning precise things because it is easier to assess our knowledge of them.

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Africa's oldest canoe

The Dufuna canoe.

Radiocarbon dating puts its age at about between 8500 - 8000 years old.

It was found in Dufuna, Yobe state in 1987 and was excavated in 1994. It was classified as a late stone age (neolithic age) invention. One from when humans stopped roaming the earth to hunt and rather become herdsmen and farmers.

The discovery of this Canoe confirms relationships between people in Dufuna and people from Turkish Catol Huyuk and Chinese Yang Shao (both known for arts and crafts) as far back as 6000 BC.

The Dufuna Canoe is Africa's oldest, and third oldest in the world.


That’s it for this week.

If you have any thoughts or questions, hit reply and we can have a chat. And if you enjoyed it, share with friends.

Till next week,

Kelvin