The Rumsfeld Device

Sculpture. The collection of Elke Finkenauer.

In his famous press conference Donald Rumsfeld warns of the potential threat of unknown unknowns. This device conveniently provides a simple measure of the current unknown unknown level in your local environment.

A friend responded:  “I’m a bit confused. If the Rumsfeld device detects an unknown unknown does the unknown unknown become a known unknown?”

This is a very good question. My response:

“It becomes a known unknown unknown. However, implicit in this statement is the existence of unknown unknown unknowns. They are far more difficult to detect and there are no guarantees that they will trigger the detector. The recursive nature of these unknowns means we can’t use the normal methods to detect them, instead we apply a different technique that uses the nontrivial zeros of the Reinman Zeta function to correlate a potentially infinite series of unknowns. This more advanced device will probably be slightly larger and use more power, perhaps about the size of a small fridge.”