#7 Bridge Engineers Take Precautions Because There Are 'Unknown Unknowns' Lurking Out There

Like a real suspension bridge our metaphorical communications bridge must have strong, stable towers that can support the cables and girders that will provide the bridge with both support and flexibility. Last week we built the tower foundations for the Growthton-Greenville bridge, next comes the towers themselves. Their strength will be in that they are constructed of principles held dear by both encampments, though they use different words to describe these same underlying principles.

Growthton, like almost everywhere, has both secular and religious ideas that contribute to its worldview. These groups may have different outlooks in some ways, but each is to some degree motivated by concepts of concern for the well-being of others and stewardship. Stewardship is the idea that humans are responsible for the world, and should take care of it. All  religions teach various degrees of support for environmental stewardship including the protection of all creation.

Aldo Leopold, a deeply religious man, championed environmental stewardship based on a land ethic "dealing with man's relation to land and to the animals and plants which grow upon it." Environmental stewardship refers to responsible use and protection of the natural environment through conservation and sustainable practices.

Greenville is likewise populated by a wide range of ideas and principles around which groups are organized. Like their Growthton cousins, the Greenville folks have strong beliefs about the nature of reality but both groups also recognize that as Donald Rumsfeld said:
"There are known knowns; these are things we know that we know.
There are known unknowns; that is to say, there are things that we now know we don't know.
But there are also unknown unknowns – these are things we do not know we don’t know."

Rumsfeld was US Secretary of Defense at the time and was referring to national security and the precautions America had to take. It's the same logic engineers use when they design bridges, the same logic Aldo Leopold used, the same logic the environmental movement supports. Every human knows and agrees that there are 'unknown unknowns'. Every human instinctively understands and agrees with the Precautionary Principle.

The first of two towers on our communications bridge will be strong because it's built from the fact that there are always 'unknown unknowns' lurking out there, on the fact that folks should never bet what they can't afford to lose, on the Precautionary Principle.