Knowledge is being replaced by knowing

Knowledge is being replaced by knowing

A great article by David Weinberger, disguised as a book review.

Here’s the link:

Here’s the best quote in this piece:

The net is demonstrating the weakness of knowledge as finished, settled, and static content. It’s doing so by plunging us deeper into knowing.

But there’s a lot of other gems to be found here:

The net is making clear how important “echo chambers” are to knowledge and even more so to understanding. If you care about molecular gastronomy and hear about a new technique, you’ll go to your favorite molecular gastronomy sites to learn more. If you’re a supporter of Net Neutrality and there’s a court ruling you don’t understand, you’ll go to a site that shares your values to get the explanation. If you are a feminist and a new pay equity law passes, you’re not going to go to a male supremacy site to find out what it means for you. Knowledge and culture depend on like-minded individuals joining together and iterating over tiny differences. This is how the net works. This is also how traditional knowing works. We did not like to acknowledge that. Now we can’t avoid it.

Perhaps our chief epistemic avoidance mechanism was turning knowing into the production of a type of content — knowledge — that we convinced ourselves had to be independent of the knower in two senses.

First, we devised methodologies that try to keep the vagaries of the individual out of the process of creating knowledge. The scientific method works. Journalistic objectivity continues to be reevaluated…

Second, we physically separated knowledge from individuals by externalizing it (e.g., books). What started in Greece as a particular class of belief became a body of printed statements that could be called knowledge even if there was no one left to believe them. Obviously, this has been wildly successful for our species, but it also meant that the medium of externalization — paper — has shaped knowledge to fit its peculiarities.

There’s tremendous value in consulting existing bodies of well-vetted beliefs, and, to their credit, teachers like Professor Lynch expose us to that value. But there is also value in the networking of knowledge in which ideas are linked in their differences. We can go wrong in those networks, but we can also go very right, achieving a new sense of how knowledge goes together even if it never fully coheres.

Much, much more too. It’s worth the read.

Related: a talk I gave in Singapore last year that touches on these topics and our “containers of collective intelligence”:


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