Tech Communication and the Curse of Knowledge

Why too much knowledge hurts

Our world is shaped by talented developers, software engineers, computer scientists — but many of them have a hard time communicating with a non-technical audience. The result: Mainstream folks remain clueless about many aspects and opportunities of technology — and technical specialists often don’t get the recognition they deserve outside their small niche.

But in a perpetually online and interconnected age, how is it even possible to complain about a lack of communication? Everyone can publish anything anytime; after all, that’s what Medium is for, not to mention countless other platforms and individual blogs.

Photo by Brad Neathery on Unsplash

However, many a developer is not in the least interested in blogging: They want to write code and build stuff. That’s the exciting part; the boring part is what their colleagues and managers often require of them, namely documenting, explaining what they’ve done (and why), and generally regurgitate all the solved problems that they would rather leave behind in order to find new, interesting problems.

And writing about what they’ve built in retrospect is not only boring — the results often feel insufficient. Many of the technically gifted among us have had this experience in high school and beyond, time after time: We try to explain how we’ve solved a cool programming problem — and the listening party doesn’t even get why there was a problem, or why it was interesting. Why waste time explaining when it’s almost certain that others won’t understand it anyway? The experience is deeply unsatisfying.

Photo by Reeney Jenkins on Unsplash

The reason for this communication gap is what others have called the “curse of knowledge”: Once you are deeply enough involved in a subject, you forget what it was like *not* to know. You can’t slip into the shoes of your listener or reader anymore — your own knowledge feels as natural to you as an old sweatshirt, and as unconscious as the act of breathing. Although you logically know that the person opposite you doesn’t know quite as much as you do, you still vastly overestimate their knowledge — and so you leave out certain parts of your explanation, without even realizing it, in order not to bore them (and yourself).

This isn’t merely a social problem that’s hampering your conversation over barbecue — it becomes an economic problem as soon as a tech expert relies on their communication to a non-technical person to secure their next promotion or funding for their startup.

And that’s where we at Intellicore Press come in, as technical communication specialists: The missing link between technical founder and investor, between developer and user, and between computer scientist and the public. We don’t take either party’s knowledge for granted, and we let everyone speak their natural language. And then — we build the bridge.

Be the first to comment

Leave a Reply