March 4, 2021

Mr. Know-It-All

Mr. Know-It-All

And if you have not heard this phrase before, tune in to Kelly Clarkson's song.  Don't let the hit hop rhythms and strong bass fool you. It was not that upbeating. For sure.

Baby, YOU don't know a thing about me.

My first encounter to this phrase directing to me was with my friend during the grad school. We were talking to the advisor. Something came up, either I was making a reference to a technical point or my advisor was asking on the similar topic, my friend said something like: "Bin is a kind of know everything". I was taken aback and unsettling. That comment might be a compliment or worse, a reference to a kind of person making statement all the time, in many topics. So what bad about that?

First, my friend is one of nicest guys I met. And that is the first problem with his comment. I had not heard him saying something direct that was not complimentary. So, to be conservative, it was a toss-up. That comment came up because of my bad manner or hopefully, he genuinely believed that I was a good resource for the question my advisor asked.

Mr. Know-It-All is very English feeling, and at first sound of kind of good for non-native speakers.  After 2-3 years in discussion and observing how Americans do not want to be called a "Mr. Know-It-All", you have a sense of one toxic term, an expression to disassociate a member in the team, or  an acquaintance that are problematic in group discussion.

Mr. KIA for short, is not exist only in America, but almost everywhere. You always see a smart ass in class that seems to know everything. And the problem is not because of the knowing, but the presentation of knowing. Someone raised their hand to ask question for probing, then follow up with a some short of contradiction or making a reference to an alternative to current solution with a hint of superiority. Someone else jumped on to answer every question being asked, felt proud of the content to the question, to be the smart kid in that class. I can see some guys or gals in the first type in class or in conference. And that flow of discussion is often being ruined either of discontinuation or casting doubts when Mr. KIA making all kind of statements.

During my high school years, I were a kind of the second type. Because I know something about that question, it was about learning experience, but I should learn to stay black and learn from others. More often than not, I raised my hand to the question. My teacher strategically enough to alternate students to the question. It was not bad to behave like a smart kid. Looking back, I might have more friends, see more perspectives from others more if I were not to forward with my willing to be a smart ass.

And so Mr. KIA does not stop at class or format meetings. You can find a guy around a table, in a discussion that taken the time of talking, and talk continuously, uninterrupted about every single topic. Sounds impressive, isn't it.

It does not.

In my profession, which is researching, knowing is the certain of unlikely proven otherwise. You can stand and defense your points if you do know how to answer a question. It is the burden on you to prove that you understand the topic well, and better than your average peers. And how do you know other friends know about this topic. Are you sure that you are that one who know the most about that question?

One thing I know for sure is that I don't know everything as the saying goes.

So for scientific discussion or sub-culture topics such as football or soccer, e-sport, fine arts. It is critical to be prudent, to presume that something about the topic that you don't know and ready to learn from others.  Or you know something about that point, but open about your limits, and you want to be contribute. You want to let friends know that you are humble to learn, and know your limits.

A classical example of knowing as a function of time, equipment and luxury of being unproven wrong is discovery natural laws. We thought the Earth was flat. Every starts move round us. Then the Earth is not round, then our Sun is not even as the central of our universe. A scientist always presume that a finding is likely to be wrong. And if a set of evidence does support the current theory; it is not a guarantee for more data coming in, with different conditions and often at the boundary of the theory. At the end, people in researching and discovery know that one piece of reliable, verifiable or trusted information is valued than a bunch of half-baked thoughts. Discussing with Mr. KIA does not clarify our thought but rather disturb and distract of train of thinking.

Mr. KIA is in daily life. You can find a guy (most of the time, no gender bias here) that have the answer to every question, from medicine to politics, from economy to the future. It feels good to let other people know. It feels like heaven that we can talk over others. Until our credibility lost when we making mistakes.  

People do nothing, do no wrong.