Archive for the ‘Knowledge’ Category

Give away your knowledge

May 30, 2009

It’s not what you know, and it’s not even who you know. It’s how much knowledge you give away. Hoarding knowledge diminishes your power because it diminishes your presence.

Everything is Miscellaneous by David Weinberger

More people have direct access to more knowledge than at any time in history

March 16, 2008

“The World Wide Web is a marvelous thing.  Because it exists, more people have direct access to more knowledge than at any time in history.”

— Walt Mossberg, The Wall Street Journal

Read a book to receive knowledge, not just words

February 19, 2008

Here’s a test to see if you understood something that you read: “State it in your own words.”

If, when you are asked to explain what the author means by a particular sentence, all you can do is repeat his very words, with some minor alterations in their order, you had better suspect that you do not know what he means.

Ideally, you should be able to say the same thing in totally different words.

If you cannot get away at all from the author’s words, it shows that only words have passed from him to you, not thought or knowledge.  You know his words, not his mind.  He was trying to communicate knowledge, and all you received was words.

How to Read a Book by Mortimer J. Adler and Charles van Doren

Evolution is not just for biology, it’s a way of creating novelty, knowledge, and growth

February 2, 2008

We are accustomed to thinking of evolution in a biological context, but modern evolutionary theory views evolution as something much more general.

Evolution is an algorithm; it is an all-purpose formula for innovation, a formula that, through its special brand of trial and error, creates new designs and solves difficult problems.

Evolution can perform its tricks not just in the “substrate” of DNA, but in any system that has the right information-processing and information-storage characteristics.

In short, evolution’s simple recipe of “differentiate, select, and amplify” is a type of computer program — a program for creating novelty, knowledge, and growth.  Because evolution is a form of information processing, it can do its order-creating work in realms ranging from computer software to the mind, to human culture, and to the economy.

The Origin of Wealth by Eric D. Beinhocker

Wise people realize that all knowledge is flawed

December 2, 2007

Wise people realize that all knowledge is flawed, that the only way to keep getting better at anything is to act on what you know now, and to keep updating.

Hard Facts by Jeffrey Pfeffer and Robert I. Sutton

It may be seriously questioned whether the advent of modern communications media has much enhanced our understanding of the world in which we live

November 10, 2007

From How to Read a Book by Mortimer J. Adler and Charles van Doren:

There is some feeling nowadays that reading is not as necessary as it once was. Radio and especially television have taken over many of the functions once served by print, just as photography has taken over functions once served by painting and other graphic arts. Admittedly, television serves some of these functions extremely well; the visual communication of news events, for example, has enormous impact. The ability of radio to give us information while we are engaged in doing other things — for instance, driving a car — is remarkable, and a great saving of time. But it may be seriously questioned whether the advent of modern communications media has much enhanced our understanding of the world in which we live.

Perhaps we know more about the world than we used to, and insofar as knowledge is prerequisite to understanding, that is all to the good. But knowledge is not as much a prerequisite to understanding as is commonly supposed. We do not have to know everything about something in order to understand it; too many facts are often as much of an obstacle to understanding as too few. There is a sense in which moderns are inundated with facts to the detriment of understanding.

One of the reasons for this situation is that the very media we have mentioned are so designed as to make thinking seem unnecessary (though this is only an appearance). The packaging of intellectual positions and views is one of the more active enterprises of some of the best minds of our day. The viewer of television, the listener to radio, the reader of magazines, is presented with a whole complex of elements — all the way from ingenious rhetoric to carefully selected data and statistics — to make it easy for him to “make up his own mind” with the minimum of difficulty and effort. But the packaging is often done so effectively that the viewer, listener, or reader does not make up his own mind at all. Instead, he inserts a packaged opinion into his mind, somewhat like inserting a cassette into a cassette player. He then pushes a button and “plays back” the opinion whenever it seems appropriate to do so. He has performed acceptably without having had to think.


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The Peculiar Character of Knowledge

September 19, 2007

Most commodities get used up and looses value as it is consumed.

Knowledge, however, does not get used up as it is consumed and can therefore spread widely without losing its value.  In fact, the more a piece of knowledge becomes available, the more valuable it potentially becomes, because of the wider array of possible uses for it.

The Wisdom of Crowds by James Suroweicki

Knowledge Yields “Increasing Returns”

July 25, 2007

The more you invest in increasing your knowledge, the more you get in return.

Learn a little, become a little more productive, get a few job opportunities.  Learn a lot, become lots more productive, get lots of job opportunities.

Knowledge has a cumulative, accelerating quality to it.

Contrast with most production processes, which exhibit the opposite quality of decreasing returns.  For most type of production processes, whether it is farming, manufacturing, or services, as one invests more and more resources, the marginal returns get smaller and smaller.

— Origin of Wealth by Eric D. Beinhocker

Knowledge for its Own Sake

July 14, 2007

“No more impressive warning can be given to those who would confine knowledge and research to what is apparently useful, than the reflection that conic sections were studied for eighteen hundred years merely as an abstract science, without a thought of any utility other than to satisfy the craving for knowledge on the part of mathematicians, and that then at the end of this long period of abstract study, they were found to be the necessary key with which to attain the knowledge of one of the most important laws of nature: the law of planetary motion.”

— Alfred North Whitehead

Novel Ideas Spring from an Assortment of Knowledge

July 8, 2007

Recall Kepler, he was the one who created the Laws of Planetary Motion.
Kepler was an astronomer, but he was also an able geometer.  His Laws of Planetary Motion arose from his interest in these two (till that time) distinct fields.

“Kepler is only one of many examples of the falsity of the idea that success in scientific research demands an exclusive absorption in one narrow line of study. Novel ideas are more apt to spring from an unusual assortment of knowledge – not necessarily from vast knowledge, but from a thorough conception of the methods and ideas of distinct lines of thought.”

— Alfred Whitehead, An Introduction to Mathematics