Monday, November 1, 2010

Knowledge surplus?

Alfredo Triff

What is the problem of knowledge? Not that we don't know. But that we know too much. The recent financial crisis happened not because of ignorance, but because a surplus in knowledge (example: deregulation and its banking instruments, such as derivatives, being applied to the economy with insufficient data).

The received idea is that knowledge goes hand in hand with the problems and challenges of the present (i.e., the Theory of Relativity was discovered against the background of Maxwell's electromagnetic equations). In a sense knowledge is context-bounded.

Welcome to the hall-of-mirrors of knowledge!

Given a problem, we figure we need "new" knowledge to deal with it. It follows that the "new" knowledge ignores the context of the "old" knowledge (a structural and political fault): A battle of survival, a sort of tectonic struggle between both knowledge/versions. For a time the prevailing knowledge works fine, then something falters. The breakthrough is that the "new" knowledge actually didn't stand up to the problem. We loose faith, and look back. Now the "old" knowledge seems to make sense, only the context has shifted (did it really?). We try to re-revise our knowledge, but there's no way back. What we've missed is not about knowledge. Yet, there's only piled up neglected knowledge to come back to.* We have no choice but to produce more "new" knowledge. 

Isn't it obvious that we have accumulated enough?

Moreover, being that "problem" itself is a knowledge/category, what if there was no  "problem" to begin with? 
*Kurt Gödel's undecidability theorem starts from a similar paradox. Gödel constructed a formula that proved that no system (including explanatory systems) can be both comprehensive and consistent, for in striving to be comprehensive it would have to account for itself, and it cannot do that and be consistent.


Feminista said...

The hall of mirrors of knowledge drives me crazy!

Dissey said...

I tell you about knowledge surplus. I declared a major and after three years decided it was the worst decsion of my life , kinda knowledge for money. Now I don't need what I know and I'm back to school to know what I want.

Matthew said...

Triff no surprise here. Conspicuous accumulation is the typical condition of capitalism knowledge to the square.

Empty knowledge solves little for the people.

RI said...

I propose intuition, raw, untouched and pure intuition. May it alleviate the surplus?

Nick said...

triff, i'm not sure i'm exactly following you here, but i see knowledge as comparable to a raw material. you can always make use of raw materials, there can never be too much. but the same raw materials may be used in vastly different ways. i think it's really a matter of the principles which govern our use of knowledge. for example: a doctor can use their knowledge of the human body to help or to hurt, or the military may use their power to protect the civilian population, or to turn against it.

enemigorumor said...

knowledge is not reciclable

miamibourbaki said...

Thanks for the comments!
Dissey, I understand.
Matthew, I like your last sentence.
Sure, RI!
Nick, you have a point. As Mary Shelley shows, some knowledge is better left alone.
Hi, Enemigo.

Anonimato said...

i can see how one can know too much in that sense of not knowing what to do with all that. we as people are sort of overwhelmed with information. what are we goin to do with it?

jorell said...

Knowledge is spent creativity. When you know things, you no longer wonder. And if you no longer wonder, then you no longer think new thoughts.

margarita said...

I believe there is a such thing as to much knowledge We over think everything and ask to many empty questions. Instead of really solving the problem.We find ways to cover up the problem.I feel like the knowledge we have is not true knowledge we jus know how to BS our way around or out of a problem.

miamibourbaki said...

Anonimato: No choice but winnoing out errors.

Jorell: Nicely put.

Margarita: I agree.

Thanks all for the visit