Wednesday, March 17, 2021


I was thinking about knowledge today.

Specifically, why it's been so devalued. Through much of human history, knowledge had weight. 

When I was a kid, if I wanted to know something and it wasn't in our encyclopedia set, I had to call the library and ask the information desk. A wizened gnome would lay the phone on her desk and I would hold while she shuffled around for ten or fifteen minutes, and then she would come back and give me the answer. 

In other words, knowledge had scarcity, and the more you knew, the more you had. It was a personal holding.

Now? Knowledge is worth almost nothing. You can look up anything in Google. Maybe you won't understand it, but it's all there. As long as you have a phone and a data connection, you don't need to remember anything. 

Entertainment is now valued so much more highly than knowledge, because entertainment has a value that learning things just doesn't have anymore, which is sad. 

It's also entirely changed our perception of the process of knowledge. 

My broker is a very, very smart guy. At the start of the pandemic, though, he was complaining about how "bad" the science was, like science was commodity instead of a process.

At first, I was really annoyed, because science is a process that relies heavily on data, and early on, there was very little to work with. His expectations were unrealistic.

The more I thought about it, though, the more I realized that he was so used to prepackaged knowledge that he had almost forgotten the process by which it's acquired. 

I wonder what it's like for kids who have never experienced a time when knowledge wasn't immediately available. For them, knowledge is so commoditized that it must be almost meaningless.

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