Knowledge = Power?

The late 16th century philosopher Sir Francis Bacon once said: “Knowledge is power.” This is true, but only if you know how to acquire said knowledge and how to use that knowledge in your advantage. There can be no knowledge without information and this information does not always come easy and requires some effort to obtain.

Opponents of Bacon’s statement will tell you that the opposite is often more true, that power is knowledge, in the sense that power decides which knowledge is produced in a given social setting and gets to count as knowledge in discourse and decision making. However, intelligence can be seen as the product of evaluated information or knowledge, valued for its currency and relevance rather than its detail or accuracy.

This would mean a person who knows a little about a lot should be considered more intelligent than an old fashioned professor specialized at one single subject. This might sound controversial but after further examination this is probably the case. A person with a broad field of knowledge will have his eyes opened to the world around him rather than being stuck in a lab or office and doing research or make theoretical assumptions all the time. By having a different, more open view to the world the intelligent person is able to quickly adapt his knowledge in any given situation. The single minded professor on the other hand needs years of research to adapt to changing conditions.

Unfortunately the educational system in many areas of the world does not support this idea. Instead of teaching people (and not only children) how to acquire, accumulate, adapt, and apply knowledge and information, the emphasis now is put on learning what is in books without even considering practical use of this knowledge. A great example is that of Thailand where all students study English grammar and vocabulary since an early age. However, when they arrive on the professional market most of them cannot form the simplest sentence and are not able to communicate in the English language as they were never trained how to apply all the rules they have learned.

Fortunately more and more people (including in Thailand) see the importance of a needed shift and the world is slowly changing, but not fast enough. Problems that cannot wait too long for a solution keep stacking up, so it might be a good idea to start a catch-up race.
We, the online community, the thought-leaders of the world can and almost have the responsibility to help. Organizations like the Internet Archive, The Open Contents Alliance, Wikipedia, ODP and OCLC, have paved the way, and inspired many individuals to start their own “knowledge preservation” projects. Site like YouTube,eHow, and enable you to learn skills, but even more important: how to apply them in your daily life. And for you as an individual, even if it can be just a little that you can contribute: little pieces together make one big whole.

What are your contributions to spreading knowledge? Or do you know of someone who contributes to this cause in his or her own way, and inspires you by what they do? Please let me know in the comments below.

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