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5 Common Myths about Knowledge

Something I wrote three years ago on my other blog: http://whichlevel.wordpress.com/2008/08/08/5-common-myths-about-knowledge/

“I have been visibly absent from the world of blogging for 2 weeks, busy working on a million things, as usual, while trying to fight the pervasive apathy that always seems to haunt me… and my generation. I can only hope that others fare better than I have, though on the whole, I did not do so bad.”
This post has been long overdue. A post about the true meaning of knowledge. I had a little discussion this afternoon that awakened the desire to write this.
I met someone today who took me up when I said all I wanted to do was graduate and make money. This fellow, who obviously was not used to my habit of embellishment and over expression took it that I meant exactly what I said i.e graduate and make money alone. In his words, knowledge was more important than money. We ended up reaching a compromise on our perspectives on the issue, however the discourse uncovered a few common myths about knowledge, which I address in this post.

Myth One: Knowledge is more important than money
First of all, knowledge, as well as money are not an end in themselves, except for insecure and shallow individuals who require ammunition to wave in the faces of others. They are a means to an end. As a result, they are neither as important individually or collectively, as the end to which their quest is aimed. It is like saying a hammer is more important than a saw in a wood workshop. They are distinct items, which belong to different categories. A hammer may be used to straighten or create a saw, and a saw may be used to carve the wooden handle of the hammer, but essentially such a relationship as might exist between them does not necessarily become a harbinger of superiority, no matter how compelling the argument might be.

Myth Two: Knowledge brings money
This is an offshoot of the first myth, and it is usually a popular argument for proponents of the first. Fact: knowledge has been known to bring money. Countless individuals have had the fortune of their next five generations secured on the winds of the knowledge they had or uncovered. Today, discoveries are a powerful back bone of the world’s most successful enterprises. However, at the same time, so much that has been deemed as knowledge has lost individuals and corporations loads of cash, time and respect. I need not say more. Therefore, knowledge can bring money, but acquisition of additional knowledge does not guaranty a windfall of naira notes or foreign currency. What is however TRUE is that The right kind of knowledge brings money. Now, classifying knowledge is both limiting and liberating. How? It is left to the individual to determine what knowledge is capable of bringing in money. Thus, define knowledge. Go figure.

Myth Three: No knowledge is wasted
This might have been true 50 years ago, but today, I hardly see the logic. With the rise of the internet, proliferation of TV, Radio, and other forms of media, one thing that is no longer lacking today is information. Data Smog or Information overload is the new cause of brain drain. Our brains cannot handle the barrage of data so we experience what David Lewis, PhD calls a paralysis of analysis. In today’s world, not only can knowledge be wasted, it can harm your ability to function effectively. The challenge now is to tune out material and information sources that seem unnecessary or to narrow down to seeking only the information that you need. Without an understanding of what your life goals, your strengths, your weaknesses are, you will be forced to compromise and eventually overly engage yourself in irrelevant pursuits.

Myth Four: The more you know the better off you are
This is a much more difficult one to disprove. This is because the human mind is naturally wired towards acquisition and achievement. The notion that physical increase means growth, and acquiring more means improvement is atavistic. In the African context, this concept is even more difficult to grasp. The richer the man, the bigger the house, the bigger the car. For some, the more wives, the more kids etc. In reality, such increase might correlate to greater achievement but sometimes, it only shows greater need, greater depravity and greater need! In Blink… The Power of Thinking without Thinking by Malcom Gladwell, one of my favorite authors, he outlines that sometimes the less we know about a certain topic, the better of we are at making a good decision. Additional information often tends to only distract us from the core issue we have interest in. It works thesame way with the pareto principle, commonly called the 80/20 rule. It states that 80 percent of the results are determined by 20 percent of the action / causes.

Myth Five: Experts can know everything
I am of the opinion that there are two kinds of people: those who dont know, and those who dont know that they dont know.This was posted on the Anecdotes blog (www.anecdotes.com.au) :
The guy who has done this job for 20 years rates himself as good. But the guy doing it for two years rates themselves as expert.
This is a very common trend in todays world. All it takes is a little additonal information to let a person know how little he really knows. What a paradox. This is not to say that some individuals do not have the priviledge and gift of being thoroughly knowledgeable in a specific field. Of course, by all means, but the truth is that there is always more ‘knowledge’ being uncovered from the least likely or most unexpected places capable of disproving the knowledge that you expertly cling to. Think about it, the world was believed to be flat for thousands of years, till Pythagoras or Erastothenes or whoever, discovered that the world was a sphere.

So there you have it, my little take on knowledge. I would like to add that this has been written to the current limit of my knowledge! De javu huh!