Monday, 23 November 2009

On The Acquisition Of Knowledge 1/2

The road to the acquisition of knowledge is a well-established path: we've always been supposed to get our knowledge from other people. Parents, teachers, preachers, masters, gurus, and the like, they are the intended intermediaries for us

Before the invention of writing information was handed down through people, from one to the other. The one possessing the information determined who would receive it, and who wouldn't. As such, it was a very effective way to control people

Even millennia after that, information used to be scarce. By 1424, Cambridge University library owned only 122 books. In 1440 the printing press was invented that sped up the speed of printing thus reducing the cost of books

Nonetheless, it wasn't until last century that people could actually get a book and have access to the source itself, first via libraries and later via buying them

But, before, during and after, your parents determined the knowledge you would acquire. After that, the teacher(s) would. The ministers and priests would. In the 60's and 70's people would travel all across the globe to India and other countries, only to search for a master or guru that would fulfill the same role: close or disclose their information stream to you

All these millennia of relying on people for acquiring knowledge have had great impact: we look at people to value the information they have. Whatever your parents say, is true. Whatever your teachers tell you, is true. Whatever ministers and priests tell you, is not only true, but also right, and good. It's the way we were taught and imprinted, and only since the growing availability of information does all that become increasingly challenged

Now, we have information everywhere on the web. Free information, accessible to all. Over 25% of the 6.7 billion people on the face of this earth have access to Internet. That means all those people can make up their own mind. Right?

Wrong. We still divide the world into people we like and dislike. We accept information from people we like as knowledge, and people we don't like or even dislike can say all they want. We're not going to listen to it anyway, let alone think about it

I read a nice blog post about kill your idols the other day. I couldn't agree more with the last sentence:
Think for yourself

This blog post is about what to do with the information you get. My next blog post will be about how to get information

2 reacties:

Henk van Zuilekom said...

That's probably down to evolution. We still are social animals and we tend to stay close to the group. We feel safe in the comfort of our peers. I can probably quote Monty Python here:

Brian: You are all different!
one man: I'm not.

It will take a while before we feel comfortable selecting different groups for different topics, but we'll get there. After all: buying books didn't jump from 1 to 500 per person overnight.
But one of the big hurdles will be: how do we process all that information without being selective? Do we want to trust a machine to do that for us? Very 1984 (in the Orwellian meaning). Or do we still want to rely on our gut feeling?

Martijn Linssen said...

Thanks Henk!

Good to see Monty Python being quoted ;-) especially from Life of Brian
And you're correct on the speed of change, it will be a while and take a while

We will have machines to do some filtering, as we use search engines now. But we'll stay on top, as that's where the complexity is. And if we reach the level of complexity and even "beat it", we'll have invited something new and even more complex to strive for in the process.

That's evolution indeed...

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