Knowledge Is Not Wisdom

As We Move Forward: Knowledge Is Not Wisdom


Wisdom can be defined as the soundness of an action or decision regarding the application of experience, knowledge, and good judgment. This is different from knowledge, which we can say is facts, information, and skills acquired by a person through experience or education; the theoretical or practical understanding of a subject. One of the things I have found amazing over the course of my life is how rapidly the knowledge in the world has increased over the years. I recall reading that sometime around the beginning of the twentieth century the knowledge in the world doubled every hundred years. Later in the twentieth century, I believe I read that the world’s knowledge doubled every fifty years. I have no idea how frequently the knowledge in the world doubles today, but I am certain it is not much time.

I remember when most knowledge was in printed form. Libraries were the repository for much of the world’s knowledge. I can remember many times during my years of formal education when research involved spending hours in a library, searching for written sources of the portions of the world’s knowledge that pertained to the research being called for. With knowledge in this printed form, there was a closer connection to the principles of wisdom. Not everything that was printed could be said to comply with the tests of experience, knowledge and good judgment, Our society in general seemed focused on having our knowledge conform with the principles of wisdom.

Beginning in the latter half of the twentieth century, the way we manage knowledge changed forever. Although it took place over years, looking back it seems almost an overnight phenomenon when knowledge went from printed to digital. It is common now for someone to take out a device to find the answer to anything or ask a device powered by Alexa, Siri or Google the answer to virtually any question. This phenomenon is truly amazing, but I have been thinking a lot about how this explosion of knowledge and having it instantly available lines up with wisdom. What I am actually doing in these instances is to seek wisdom to know whether what I am reading is sound or not. I’ll admit it has taken a while for me to be able to accept a concept like fake news. To me, the very notion of fake news does not even make sense. If something is fake, it cannot be news. If it is truly news, it cannot be fake.

Internet Connectivity

I read things on social media, and often my first response is to ask whether what I have read is true or not. I’m not talking here about differences of opinion with a goal of persuading someone to accept a particular argument as sound. This is deliberately stating things that are not true, holding them out as fact. That, to me, is propaganda, and the last I knew, that was a deliberate misrepresentation of facts, or knowledge.

As we move forward, it is probably more important all the time to view any knowledge through the lens of wisdom. Experience, knowledge and good judgment still seem to be good standards to use in evaluating knowledge. Is this confusing? Yes, I believe it can be. Is it difficult? Certainly. Wisdom can be hard to recognize in the sea of knowledge that is only going to increase. As we move forward in this ever-expanding sea of knowledge, let us always seek to make wisdom our guide.

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