The more you know, the less smart you'll think you are

A few months ago, I had a talk with my mentor. I mentioned to him how hard it is for me to learn the advanced stuff in programming. What he said made an impression on me: “Isn’t that good? Everyday, we realize that there’s still a lot of things we don’t know and we need to learn. It’s exciting!”. When he said that, I asked myself how he can be that modest even though I know that he already knows a lot when it comes to programming. That thought kept floating in my mind for a long time.

A few weeks later, I noticed how some of my acquaintances behave when it comes to expressing what’s on their mind. They are either very vocal or silent when arguing about what they know with other people. People who are very vocal or confident about their thoughts tend to know little about what they’re talking about at all while the silent, modest types tend to be the actual ones in the know. Ever since I made that observation, I’ve been very conscious with speaking my mind.

It turns out, there’s an actual name for this kind of phenomenon. It’s called the Dunning-Kruger effect. It’s basically the behavior of how people overrate/underrate themselves when in reality, they are completely different to how they think they are.

I’m not saying that confident/vocal people don’t have a clue when it comes to what they’re talking about. It can be 2 things, it can either be because they are fully aware of what they’re talking about or they have no idea how complex the topic at hand is. The same can go for the silent types, it can either be because they have no idea on the topic or they know a lot but they are also fully aware how complex the topic at hand is and they don’t want to make a fool out of themselves.

I’m not really sure if this had a negative effect on me because the moment I came across the advanced stuff in programming, I felt like I’m still very stupid when it comes to that. It’s kinda like realizing how little and insignificant you are the moment you realized how big the universe is because you were used to just your surroundings. I went from being overly vocal to being the cautious silent type. A few months ago, I thought I knew a lot when it comes to programming because I can do algorithms and can write simple POS systems but then I came across stuff like Stack Overflow, Coding Horror, It’s common sense, stupid and Joel on Software. I thought to myself, “What the heck are these people talking about?”.

I’m a pretty optimistic person so instead of being depressed over the fact that I know little when it comes to programming, I went back to what my mentor told me: “Isn’t that good? Everyday, we realize that there’s still a lot of things we don’t know and we need to learn. It’s exciting!”. Also, because of this incident, I now believe that humility comes as we gain knowledge.


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