There are a series of Probaway posts on unknowns and unknown unknowns, with the effort being to isolate the factors that might be helpful in discovering knowable things within the presently unknown areas. This is a meta science, an overview of a search strategy. The idea of shadowing volumes as a way of revealing unknown things within their umbras may be useful. It consists of blocking the brilliance of sources so the more delicate things may be viewed, and then blocking second and third sources covering a given area with their brilliance, and that are creating obscurity because of their brilliant noise. Some unobserved things may simply be too small to reflect much illumination or cast a shadow, or not big enough to cast a shadow or too transparent to be seen or cast a shadow. These unobserved objects might be tiny or very big, but too diffuse in the ordinary glare of various typical illuminators to be seen. All the same they may exist, and may have interesting or perhaps useful properties. Perhaps the usefulness of this technique would be in discovering places where there isn’t anything, in case the absence of something is valuable. This is a kind of Karl Popper-like search for the negative of tested observations, in that it is using falsifiability as the starting point, as opposed to using it as an ending point proof of the not quite rightness of a theory.
Camouflage is highly dependent upon the point of view of the viewer. Camouflage can be exposed with sufficient stereoscopic vision, movement of the object, or movement of the viewer which gives a different view or even better enhances stereoscopic vision, or by adding any other potential sense to the perception, such as other wavelengths of light, or of touch, smell, taste, radar, echo, shadow, inertia, startle, distraction or movement. Anything that adds additional, perhaps even seemingly unrelated factors which the brain can process helps see through the camouflage; to see the camouflage as separate from the object. If any tiny thing can be observed separate from the camouflage, when the camouflage in that observing dimension is removed, then that now visible thing can be more easily observed in the other dimensions. When that almost invisible observation can be added to almost invisible observations from some other point of view, or other observing dimension, the combination makes the target thing more visible. Multidimensional camouflage is more obscuring, but is harder to create than a single-surface camouflage like the colorful clothing patterns used by soldiers, and multidimensional camouflage requires multidimensional thought processes and efforts to create and maintain. When any part of the target can be seen, even if it is only an unrecognizable part, all of these obscuring factors can be seen through and adding a little more detail permits a Gestalt, an ah-ha, and the new target reality stands naked before our vision.
The term camouflage is generally limited to intentional obfuscation of some item by human actions, or with naturally living things as a selection-driven DNA adaptation to routinely encountered life-changing situations. As English doesn’t have a good general but unique word for a natural obscuring of information the word camouflage will be used in a more generalized abstract sense. The words veil, or obscure, or fog, or noise would usually be synonyms, but what is needed to be implied by our chosen term for this effect is that there need not be a human intent to conceal. For example, Isaac Newton’s laws were not intentionally camouflaged or intentionally hidden by anyone, or any positive feedback life process. Newton’s laws were there for everyone to use and comment upon, on a daily basis, but Newton made the veil transparent, and the underlying natural laws obvious. For every action there is an equal and opposite force of resistance, a reaction. Once the emotional and intentional qualities of the word camouflage are removed the term functions well. The term veil implies a single semitransparent surface, from which a single removal will make the obscured objects obvious, but that is rarely the case with unknown unknowns. The term fog would be better than veil because it implies a deeper and more continuous obscuring factor, but fog isn’t specific enough it’s too foggy, and sometime camouflage is a single surface, and sometimes it is only within the mind of the perceiver. By these subtitles of word use the standard military clothing would not be called camouflage but a veil, because it is only one layer; but a multi-layered ghillie suit could still be called camouflage.
Once the hidden object is perceived as the foreground-subject-of-attention to the brain, the gestalting process of the brain quickly fills in the whole gestalt of the object. What was not comprehended by any one sense suddenly becomes a coherent part of a whole, when combined with the others, and the now easily comprehended whole is easily perceived by each of the previously separated senses. This gestalting is the unconscious functioning of the brain, where it pulls together various levels of information into a pattern that the conscious mind comprehends.
Here is a practical concrete example: once the gestalting person has identified the previously hidden object the camouflage becomes counter-productive in the case of the camouflaged enemy soldier. The camouflaged soldier doesn’t realize he is no longer invisible, and the camouflage becomes an encumbrance which is itself visible, and not an obscuring device. From the moment the observer has gestalted the camouflage or the hidden soldier and his cohorts they become easily recognizable targets, and once observed they can be destroyed, or worse from the discovered enemy soldiers’ point of view, manipulated to other even more disastrous ends by being presented with attractive distractions. Thus, revealing a camouflaged item can be a great asset to the discoverer because it confers power well beyond the simple knowledge of existence of the item. It is similar to spying on the inner thoughts of an opponent, and thus gaining the ability to manipulate their thoughts and their actions. That ability may have implications well beyond a simple observation.
This form of perception from multiple conceptual vantage points can be called multi-scopic in that it scopes the intended target from multiple viewpoints. All of these viewpoints need not be visual, but can be any form of potentially revealing the target object. Even seeming unrelated or previously unavailable tests could be applied to the target, such as bumping the environment, or generating a gust of wind or observing more specifically the natural occurrences that would create alternate almost imperceptible changes in the target, except that these tiny disturbances could be timed for the effect and thus observed. When a new input is observed the various viewpoints for the brain to gestalt the effects then become available, and when that happens a considerable amount of previously undigested material will become meaningful information and all the information will suddenly become a coherent whole.
This gestalting process is probably what gives rise to what has been observed many times as the “ah-ha” moment. It is when a person struggling to comprehend a problem turns on an additional sensing system, and at that moment of a different view, a gestalt flash of insight instantly reveals the formerly hidden identity. It may happen so quickly that the additional mode of viewing isn’t even perceived as operating, but the item appears to suddenly reveal itself in all of its various dimensions. Once the item is gestalted it becomes easier to see again and again from different perspectives, and as the various views are combined and tested the subtle qualities of the new discovery become easy to see, and the potentially new and useful qualities become available.
It may seem impossible to know what is beyond the veil, the fog, the camouflage, but when we look at history and see that such simple and seemingly obvious things as Newton’s Laws were discovered after tens of billions of humans had lived, and even used the laws, we can reasonably assume there are other equally obvious things remaining to be discovered. This is why we should look into the foggy random noise of the unknown and watch for tiny observed sparks of apparent meaninglessness, and then apply all of the other modes of observation to that spark. When a second perception is found near there we must be prepared to ramp up the other tools to their focused intensity, and apply whatever is needed to get the moment of gestalting which gives the ability to generate a published abstraction which clearly shows to others what can be perceived, valued and used.