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Thread: How Much Knowledge Is Too Much?

  1. #1 How Much Knowledge Is Too Much? 
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    Greetings all, I hope this is the appropriate forum for this post, please advise me if not.

    My intention here is to challenge the celebration currently under way in regards to the discovery of the Higgs Boson.

    Although I'm using the Higgs as an example case, my purpose really is to ask larger questions about our relationship with knowledge. As scientists dedicated to the development of knowledge, I hope you might find these questions interesting and engage them, whatever your position.

    The global celebration of the Higgs discovery, and the seeming lack of a counter view, seems to shine a light on a culture wide consensus that more knowledge is better, almost no matter what, even if the knowledge was very expensive to obtain, and seems to have little defined benefit. My counter thesis follows.

    I propose that the most significant challenge facing humanity is the relationship between knowledge and wisdom, that is, the judgment required to use the power that flows from knowledge wisely.

    I propose that knowledge grows exponentially, while wisdom grows incrementally at best. Thus, over time, the relationship between the two becomes ever more distorted. We are increasingly like a troubled 14 year old kid who has just been given a case of scotch, the keys to a car, and a loaded hand gun. We are ever more powerful, without being ever more wise.

    So why complain about the Higgs discovery?

    Well, shouldn't the discipline that brought us nuclear weapons, a tool that allows us to erase human civilization in 30 minutes, be subjected to relentless scrutiny when it announces another major project? I find such scrutiny to be entirely lacking, and this seems remarkable indeed.

    I'll stop here for now to see if you are willing to take on this challenge together.


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  3. #2  
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    Quote Originally Posted by Typist View Post
    Greetings all, I hope this is the appropriate forum for this post, please advise me if not.
    My intention here is to challenge the celebration currently under way in regards to the discovery of the Higgs Boson.
    Although I'm using the Higgs as an example case, my purpose really is to ask larger questions about our relationship with knowledge. As scientists dedicated to the development of knowledge, I hope you might find these questions interesting and engage them, whatever your position.
    Hello, I share your concerns. But there are differences in some of my perspective, at various level, so here are some things I'd like to add
    Quote Originally Posted by Typist View Post
    The global celebration of the Higgs discovery, and the seeming lack of a counter view, seems to shine a light on a culture wide consensus that more knowledge is better
    yes and that part I would be ok with. Because more knowledge is better.
    But I don't think our current culture is the one of “le sciécle des lumière” centuries ago. The current one favored productivity, or practical knowledge, especially employ'able ones...
    In that sense I find the LHC experiment refreshing, or mind opening. It is about knowledge. My concern is about the validity of it purely in regard to science itself(poor) (not society in gereral(rich))
    Quote Originally Posted by Typist View Post
    , almost no matter what, even if the knowledge was very expensive to obtain, and seems to have little defined benefit. My counter thesis follows.
    I am all for cost/benefit analysis, but I would like you to be more specific about the currency/unit/properties we are gona weight.
    Quote Originally Posted by Typist View Post
    I propose that the most significant challenge facing humanity is the relationship between knowledge and wisdom, that is, the judgment required to use the power that flows from knowledge wisely.
    I propose that knowledge grows exponentially, while wisdom grows incrementally at best. Thus, over time, the relationship between the two becomes ever more distorted.
    I would say that knowledge don't even grow incrementally. Logarithmically at best.
    I would say wisdom, even if part of knowledge itself, is barely quantifiable.
    Quote Originally Posted by Typist View Post
    We are increasingly like a troubled 14 year old kid who has just been given a case of scotch, the keys to a car, and a loaded hand gun. We are ever more powerful, without being ever more wise.
    That question is perfectly founded on a scientific forum, but more in the anthropologist/evolutionist section.
    For what I get from reading Daniel Quinn or Dawkins, for example, I would says we are no more teenagers than child, baby or adult. We are sapiens, we use the wise'nees that's suite best our selfish gene.
    Quote Originally Posted by Typist View Post
    So why complain about the Higgs discovery?
    Because it is fun ? Or because we like to play the underdog ? Don't get me started, I can find dozens of reasons.
    Quote Originally Posted by Typist View Post
    Well, shouldn't the discipline that brought us nuclear weapons, a tool that allows us to erase human civilization in 30 minutes,
    That discipline is WAR, not science. Some wooden club or fancy spiritual leader is enough to do that.
    Or the invention you are looking for is FIRE. We like to burn so much that we even burn the bowels of the earth, and all that CO2 will for sure end this civilization.
    Quote Originally Posted by Typist View Post
    be subjected to relentless scrutiny when it announces another major project? I find such scrutiny to be entirely lacking, and this seems remarkable indeed.
    I'll stop here for now to see if you are willing to take on this challenge together.
    What you call for is that we should stop and think. Every time I do that with a nearly random group of people, I witness that even if we are all for stopping and thinking (although the civilization itself consider that as “not going forward”, or being stuck/wanting-to-go-back-in the past), the plain truth is we cannot agree on what we should do otherwise. Because every body has its own notion of self interest, and we are often back to witness selfish genes behaviors.
    Scientist are just sapient, do not expect them to be wiser then the average Joe (maybe less in my point of view, they are more detached of reality, that is strange for physicist, no ?)
    I personally would measure “wisdom” as the ability to maintain an equilibrium that lead to a durability/security/resilience in time.
    We are at the opposite of that spectrum: programmed obsolescence, and I like to call it decadence.


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  4. #3  
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    Hello, I share your concerns. But there are differences in some of my perspective, at various level, so here are some things I'd like to add
    Ok, great, thank you.

    yes and that part I would be ok with. Because more knowledge is better.
    Why?

    In that sense I find the LHC experiment refreshing, or mind opening. It is about knowledge. My concern is about the validity of it purely in regard to science itself(poor) (not society in gereral(rich))
    Ok, so you like the research but feel it was done poorly?

    I am all for cost/benefit analysis, but I would like you to be more specific about the currency/unit/properties we are gona weight.
    Any tangible specific defined goal, which has a plausible chance of being reached is a good place to start.

    I would say that knowledge don't even grow incrementally. Logarithmically at best.I would say wisdom, even if part of knowledge itself, is barely quantifiable.
    Would you say that we are more powerful than say, 100 years ago, but we haven't changed so much as human beings?

    That discipline is WAR, not science.
    It is science that hands the warriors ever more powerful weapons. Science doesn't create war, it just makes it more destructive. Or, more precisely, creates the potential for more destruction.

    Or the invention you are looking for is FIRE. We like to burn so much that we even burn the bowels of the earth, and all that CO2 will for sure end this civilization.
    That's a good example, yes.

    What you call for is that we should stop and think.
    Yes.

    Scientist are just sapient, do not expect them to be wiser then the average Joe (maybe less in my point of view, they are more detached of reality, that is strange for physicist, no ?)
    I don't blame the scientists, who are doing what we hired them to do, and doing it skillfully. l blame us, the funders.
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  5. #4  
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    Nuclear bomb prompted the reduction of war between 1st World nations and prevented the Cold War from escalating into something more general. I do not believe it was a bad invention.
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    Knowledge can lead to destruction as we see in this modern world, Yet if science were to continue, how can knowledge be more help in the area of non-destruction than destruction. Human mind thinks of ways to destroy. When we cure people, we in fact destroy cells to obtain this goal. This tells the fact that knowledge is only destruction. In order to save you must destroy. Wisdom is not so different from knowledge either, however the twist is that it is using to do no harm rather it is there to prevent harm to a certain extent. Which leads us to the last point : one cannot exist without another. Which is stating without destruction we cannot heal. Thank you for your consideration
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  7. #6  
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    We are on an ever escalating spiral of knowledge and technology, without which:
    you and I would not be communicating
    we wouldn't have electricity
    we couldn't feed the 7 billion of us
    etc. ... etc..

    If i would choose to use this computer for fraud or vandalism, it ain't the fault of the computer.
    If I would choose to use my rifles for murder, it ain't the fault of the rifle(nor those pesky little bullets that leave all those holes out of which the blood flows).
    If i choose to use tractors to deep plow the high prarie soils and cause a dustbowl, it ain't the fault of the tractor.
    Sometimes, people make bad choices, most often that ain't true.

    Anyway, we have been of this path of toolmaking and multigenerational learning for hundreds of thousands of generations, so, why stop now?
    We are but children on the edge of understanding the world and universe around us. It's getting better and better, faster and faster. We live in an age of technological miracles, (for a very small percentage of which, i actually have some acumen and facility)
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  8. #7  
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    Predictably, the Information Age is blossoming into an Age of Too Much Information. Information propagates through humans and human technologies. We can't stop it, and in many ways we serve this information more than it serves us.
    Quote Originally Posted by sculptor View Post
    We are on an ever escalating spiral of knowledge and technology... why stop now?
    Personally, I don't mind being one dumb cog in someting greater than the sum of its parts, even when that emergent something doesn't exactly share my values (i.e. a corporation). The history of life evolving on Earth suggests that individual humans should become the next "cells" of something greater we can't possibly appreciate.

    Since a rule of emergence is that individual parts can't understand the whole, we may as well go on thinking that we're just acting as individuals, as we shuffle information to and fro.
    A pong by any other name is still a pong. -williampinn
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    Quote Originally Posted by Typist View Post
    yes and that part I would be ok with. Because more knowledge is better.
    Why?
    Why not ? would be my answer, but itis a question. Let's say I like knowledge, probably because unlike ice cream, I can stuff myself with it as much as a want to, withoutbecoming sick.
    Applying logic (Sculptor point ofview),
    If I have knowledge I don't have to use it (in anyway, bad or wrong does matter)
    If I don't have knowledge I cannot useit, no matter what.
    So it is about degrees of liberty. I like choice/freedom.
    Quote Originally Posted by Typist View Post
    Ok, so you like the research but feel it was done poorly?
    At various degree of poor'ness (sorry).I try to distinguish using the degrees of liberty I spoke of earlier. The more I have, the more I like.
    Quote Originally Posted by Typist View Post
    Any tangible specific defined goal,which has a plausible chance of being reached is a good place tostart.
    Yes, definitely. But then history told us that many tool (especially math ones). Where developed just because you let people wander. The degree of liberty again. Having to many fixed goals will just sterilize science. I would say the more resources invested into some research, the more it needs to be goal bounded.
    Quote Originally Posted by Typist View Post
    Would you say that we are more powerfulthan say, 100 years ago, but we haven't changed so much as human beings?
    No I would never say that. Power isalso a quite vague term. In term of being able to produce work, then yes we are more powerful.
    Did you mean that “power” is onlythe mean of controlling/bashing/destroying other peoples ?
    I don't think we are more of that, especially given the “horse power” we have. But then you need to get a broader picture.
    Two nuclear bomb wipe hundreds ofthousands people and injured an mutilated many more. Some mindbogglingly stupid people would argue that this atrocity saved other lives.
    I would point out that simple knives were enough to wipe-out the same amount a Rwanda people.
    Science/knowledge has nothing to do in this.
    Death toll is also to be treated with proportion. Add the death toll of Religious doctrin, and then do that for knives (partially overlap the first) for smoking, and then for F15 eagles.
    Also treat them with proportion of the entire population (with is abnormally growing since +-5000 years). I think the result should be interesting.
    Quote Originally Posted by Typist View Post
    It is science that hands the warriors ever more powerful weapons. Science doesn't create war, it just makes it more destructive. Or, more precisely, creates the potentialfor more destruction.
    Yes and No, see above.
    Another counter argument is that the associated science of communication would tell leaders that they should "behave" or their own people (more aware) would turn upon them.
    I do not call it even, I just think that it is quite difficult to prove.
    Quote Originally Posted by Typist View Post
    That's a good example, yes.
    No I was being lazy The only invention that got us into trouble was made around +-5000 year, where some stupid fuck decide to follow a deadly "grow plow grow ..." paradigm that mutate some human meme(mental gene), and since then this cancer that is called civilizations has swallow the whole of humanity.
    Then maybe we agree, knowing more,having more, growing knowledge, growing wealth, Is it two side of the same coin ?
    But then where did this knowledge came from, apart from a book filed with some more knowledge (Daniel Quinn)
    Quote Originally Posted by Typist View Post
    I don't blame the scientists, who are doing what we hired them to do, and doing it skillfully. l blame us,the funders.
    I personally, blame the entire notion of “funding”.
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