Wednesday, April 15, 2015

K is For Knowledge

For many people in the so called 'industrialized' world, we live in an age of almost instant knowledge. Want to know stats of your favorite baseball team? What to know when a war started or ended? Google and other resources are handily available.

Our ability to know things is tremendous.

Our capacity to double that knowledge is ever increasing as the world becomes more networked. What took hundreds of years to double the body of human knowledge is now a fraction of that time.

The problem is that people are involved in such information.

For example, you look at a web site like "You Are Not So Smart" and it point out how terribly stupid people are.

Some of my favorites:

The Science of Misremembering. You can't trust your own memories. How horrible is that? As you age and your opinions change and your ideas evolve, hey, guess what? You tend to think you always thought that way. This could be one of the big reasons why politicians are always caught flip flopping on issues. It's not that they honestly don't remember holding another position, it's that their own brains have rewired their memories so that they've always thought, that what they currently think, is what they've always thought.

There's also the Black Swan effect. When things happen that no one thought would happen, people look on it and then invent whole scenarios and stories about why we didn't stop it. Why we didn't plan for it. All along the ability to actually plan for something of similar scope happening again? Ignored.

A great blog post by Post-Mortems, talks about the Whys of things. One of the things it points out, is that we honestly think we're going to be smarter in the future then we are today. For some reason, we've convinced ourselves that if we have a problem today, that if we have the exact same problem or a similar one in the future, because hey man, we make progress around here, it'll be easier to handle.

Big can of Nope there! If the effort isn't put in to advance the knowledge of how to prevent, fix, document, ad etcetera the problem to begin with, whoever comes after you is going to run into similar problems and have to start at ground zero in fixing them.

There's also the problem in that numbers mean what you want them to mean. You have to have a huge amount of context when dealing with numbers, including knowing what the other person's point and goal is.

For example, there are more white people on public aid then there are black people.

Counter, there is a higher ratio of black people on public aid than white people.

In both instances it's terrible that we need public aid to support people as opposed to having excellent job training, public college to assist in that training, and public health care to you know, not bankrupt anyone whose ever had medical issues, but each number tells you something and depending on who you're talking to, you'll be able to quickly see where they stand on a number of social issues.

K is for Knowledge but it's not something we should be proud of. When thinking about who you are, write it down. Come back to it in a month, in a year. Are you still the same person. When looking at a problem you've had in the past, write it down. Develop your method for dealing with it in the future. Did it happen again? Did it help?

Knowledge isn't just the regurgitation of information. It's the application.