I used to work in sales at a lumber yard, where we sold all kinds of (mostly residential) building materials from lumber, to paint, to plumbing, electrical supplies, hardware, doors/windows, roofing, power tools, etc. I grew up working with quite a few of these things, as my Dad was a residential framer. Nonetheless, there were various things I knew very little about, having never used them.
Given a few years, however, listening to the advice given by co-workers, and listening to problems encountered (and solved) by customers, I ‘learned’ how to answer common questions. I had never put in a p-drain myself, but I learned how to answer most questions a customer would ask! Even more humorous, I had a co-worker who had almost no hand-on experience with anything we sold – yet nonetheless, she too learned to answer the common questions (often word-for-word what her co-workers had said the day before!).
I think this kind of learning is fine for what it is, but in various discussions I have, I often feel that others are (and I’m guilty of) operating with ‘knowledge’ they’ve gained from eavesdropping in this or that conversation or forum. “Ohh, Aristotle was such and such…”, and “yeah, science has shown that…” or “Democracy was designed so that…”
This is the Wikipedia/Google-based knowledge that informs so many pool-of-ignorance building conversations. People that know just a weeee little bit about a whole lot of things, pretending to be experts at it all. “I remember seeing somewhere that…”
We… (cough) I… need to learn to just say, “I have no idea about that, to be honest. Let’s both read up on it and get back to one another in [not 2 minutes, but…] a few weeks.” Now that would just require far too much patience.