By Rick Szostak
Unknown unknowns are challenges that we will face in future that we do not foresee today.
Here I argue that an important subgroup of unknown unknowns occurs when some phenomenon that we know a lot about has an unexpected effect on another phenomenon that we know a lot about, especially when there are few links between the two silos of knowledge. An example is unanticipated “interactions” between medications prescribed by medical practitioners from different specialities. Here I explore such disciplinary interactions more generally.
Disciplinary scholars focus on interactions among the phenomena that their discipline studies, but usually ignore interactions with phenomena studied in other disciplines. The academy as a whole thus devotes little attention to interactions among phenomena studied in different disciplines.
I have explored major historical transformations, which were generally surprises at the time and found they always involve interactions among the phenomena studied by multiple disciplines.