Dave Rogers is reading a book called Heresies Against Progress and Other Illusions and writes The externally directed "knowing," the discovery and gathering of information, while empowering in other ways, does not make us more free. With that I think I agree. I agree, but I think this ignores an important point: knowledge does not make us free, but it enables freedom. Conversely, ignorance constrains us.

The problem is that knowledge has, for many of us, become the end rather than the means. When someone criticizes Wikipedia, too often the response is not an explanation of the benefits Wikipedia brings to real people, but instead a faith-based proposition that Wikipedia is inherently good by virtue of it being a large and growing collection of knowledge.

When knowledge is treated as a self-justifying goal, it can easily take precedence over more important things. When Wikipedia slanders someone, that’s hurting real people. That’s a problem that will only be recognized by those of us who maintain that people are more important than knowledge. Those who worship the all-knowing hive-mind as an eternal source of good are unable to see the problem of people getting hurt.

But I think disregarding the enabling aspect of knowledge is sort of like halting our consumption of water after someone drowns. Water doesn’t make us healthy, but it’s awfully hard to be healthy without water. On MakeDataMakeSense, I have a little diagram under the logo on every page, which looks like this:


Knowledge and wisdom are greyed out because they’re outside the scope of the site. I’d probably go further and say they’re outside the scope of any programming project, because knowledge and wisdom are best handled by people, not machines. But they’re still there because they’re important.

I think "wisdom" to me is pretty much the same as Dave’s "interior knowledge." And I don’t think that can exist without "external knowledge." I think we get to know ourselves within our context. Some of us understand pain when we hit our finger with a hammer. Some of us understand pain when we lose a loved one. But we need to first understand a hammer, or understand death. No one understands pain without first understanding something else, some external knowledge that could most likely be found on Wikipedia.


i hear that you don't change
how do you expect to keep up with the trends
you won't survive the information age
unless you plan to change the truth to accomodate the brilliance of man

Pedro the Lion, Letter From a Concerned Follower