If you understand everything, you must be misinformed - Japanese proverb
When does fact become knowledge?
TechRepublic has published a very nice interview on "Google-belief" and what can be known or truly understood by you and me. This section on accessible fact and creativity is particularly interesting.
You say an overreliance on this form of knowing is weakening our other senses. What kind of creative thinking are we losing? Is there a way to get some of that back?
One of the things that I'm very concerned about is the fact that, like everything else in life, when we find something that works really well for certain purposes, we tend to get so excited about it, so reliant on it, that we tend to value it more. We think it solves more problems than it might actually do.
Google-knowing has given us lots of benefits, but it doesn't allow us to synthesize those facts all by itself. It can give us more facts, more stuff into the hopper, but in and of itself it doesn't tell us how to understand what we're processing. That is something that in a sense involves a whole different set of cognitive abilities, some of which are connected to creativity.
Right now we're talking a lot about analytics that we're able to use on massive sets of data. The internet of things is producing more data, which we are then able to employ our mathematical techniques on to find incredibly helpful and predictive correlations. That knowledge of how things hook together is the sort of thing that only can come through what I call understanding. Understanding is not the kind of cognitive ability that's being exercised or used when you're just passively receiving information (emphasis supplied).
The knowledge gained, say, from 30 years as a furniture maker is different from that of a courtroom attorney. But the two occupations, different as they are, do share a commonality. Every experience is a mediated experience. Information immediacy is not the same as knowledge. We are changed by experience, shaped by the tools we use, whether those tools be a finely tuned bench plane or a trained and nuanced argument before the bench. The question, which is perhaps too often forgotten today, and the one I was gratified to see addressed in the interview with Lynch, is this one: how are we changed?
Sense making only comes from the testing or exercise of what has been received. Do you dance? Dance! Do you build? Build! Do you explore? Leave your figurative shore for deeper waters.
Some of you may recognized the byline in this particular interview, Hope Reese, who, along with Jason Hiner, attended and wrote several articles about the IdeaFestival last October for TechRepublic.
Read her entire interview with the philosopher Michael Lynch here.