You Can Get Answers Only to Questions You Think to Ask

This phrase seems like the buried lede in an economic analysis of market discontent.

No single poll is definitive, and you can get answers only to questions you think to ask.

It’s a philosophical point, which for me invokes the wonderful empiricist insights of the late 1700s.

The path towards knowing the right questions to ask can be derived from one of the most famous philosophers in history, Mary Wollstonecraft. A prominent figure in the early suffrage and abolition movements (rights for women and non-whites) she wrote “A Vindication of the Rights of Woman” in 1792, which argued for social and political equality (power) through the process of learning (education).

In the modern context of AI hacking, Wollstonecraft’s emphasis on societal responsibility of knowledge is very pertinent. She famously stated “I do not wish [women] to have power over men, but over themselves”, which should be required training for every hacker. Her philosophy remains powerfully useful, providing us with the idea that “learning” via questions is a known disruptive power dynamic in society that must be guided through ethical considerations.

My favorite way of thinking about it (as a long time physical security auditor, let alone encryption key breaker) is no single lock is definitive, but every prior lock is illustrative. Thus you get past locked doors by thinking about enough of the ways to get in.

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