The arrogance of knowledge

It is common for university students to think that they “know it all.” As far as they know, they’re right. Contemporary education encapsulates a little bundle of knowledge and gives a very shiny diploma to those who understand that bundle well enough.

That is an imperfect system. Students are taught (not explicitly but implicitly) that there is a definite quantity of information to be learned, that it can all be learned, and that you can arrive at a state of completion. A student nearing the end of a successful, lifelong career in studying would be hard pressed to find reasons not to be arrogant. After all, he learned everything, and has nearly arrived at the final confirmation of his mastery over all knowledge.

Here are three truths that dispel the three fallacies above:

  1. There are no limits to knowledge. The more we know, the more we discover that we do not know. It’s a simple concept, but Dunning-Kruger explains 80% of human interactions.
  2. Because there is an unknown quantity of information to be learned, we do not know if we can learn it all. But it’s probably a good guess that you cannot.
  3. Since there is no way you can learn it all, you are never done learning. Yes, you have your diploma. You’re certified to know the very basics. Grats. If you never learn anything else, you’ll never be any smarter than a recent college grad (do you know poorly most employers esteem the intelligence of a typical recent grad?).

Bonus truth: you forget very easily. I took 30 credit hours of classes to meet the requirements for my undergraduate major. I can recall maybe 30 bits of information, and I’m sure I’d recognize quite a bit more, but the truth is that we all forget even very important things.

As a potential tonic for your knowledge-induced arrogance, ponder the three point above, and chase it down with a brief viewing of this 2:33-long video on the topic of Olēka:


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s