Do we need to know?

19th May 2009
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For almost two and a half centuries close, we have cried hoarse 'Knowledge is power'. We've continuously searched to know, know why the stone sinks,

how is the earth round, why the apple falls, why time curves, what lies beyond. Our journey from birth to death is nothing but a journey of knowing. There is therefore no wonder we attach so much importance to it. 


But then, looking back through the history of life, we see that there have been many such 'important' things all through. For the first self-repeating cell that came into existence, 'multiplicity' would have been the only idea in mind. For our forefathers, the hunters, 'speed' would have been the primary idea. So that brings us to the question - 'How important is knowledge?'


To answer that, let us consider what knowledge is and how it is accrued. Since the author of this article has a twisted mind, we shall answer the second question first and the first one last, with the ones in between left unanswered.


The acquisition of knowledge, in my opinion happens in three different ways - direct-direct, indirect-direct and indirect-indirect. To decode those cryptic terms, they can be explained as, 'Kicking a door, stubbing your toe and crying in pain', 'Seeing your friend kick a rock, stub his toe and cry in pain', 'Hearing from your friend how he kicked a rock, stubbed his toe and cried in pain'. All three methods lead to the same knowledge - 'Kicking a rock with a naked toe causes pain'.


That answers the first question. Knowledge is aggregation of facts. Knowledge is merely storing a piece of information in your brain. Knowledge therefore is nothing but memory. The author is aware of the fact that this statement has got all your arsenal of arguments loaded and aimed at him, but he begs of you to hold the assault briefly. The author is a man of honour and shall duel you for sure.


Let us go back again to the means of acquiring knowledge. Let us restate those 3 methods with entrepreneurial examples so that we come to context at last. 'I learn by losing heavily that a strong business plan is necessary for a business to thrive', 'I learn by seeing my friend lose heavily without a strong business plan', 'I learn from a friend who tells me how he lost heavily because of not having a business plan'. 


Let us first examine the credibility of each method. First the indirect-indirect method. If you know any of my friends, you would understand how fallible this method is. Anything that I hear from my friends would be meant to destroy me (partly because of their nature and partly because of what I have done to them!) But on a serious note, this method is the most flawed because it relies on the trust that you have on the person who gives you the information. Yes, the person might be very successful, very learned, very informed. But that doesn't rule out infallibility on that person's part.


Coming to the indirect-direct method, there is a small improvement. You can see your friend losing heavily because of the lack of a business plan. That is obvious, and you can trust yourself can't you. The problem here is we are extrapolating. We are surmising that what applies to our friend will apply to us as well. That extrapolation might prove correct for n times (n being as big a number as you can think of), but we still cannot assure it for the n+1th case.


At last, the perfect method - Direct-direct. I lose heavily without a business plan. I can trust myself there right? I know this is why it happened and experienced it first hand. What can beat that? Can there be a single flaw in this method?


Actually there are two flaws. First being that we are relying on our analysis and discovery that lack of business plan is the reason we lost a lot. For all you know, it might be because Saturn was in the eleventh house and a cat crossed your path the day you started the business. We could of course refute this as rubbish, but then I could refute any logical system as rubbish because it places all its lofty constructions on the basis of one fragile fact being true. Shake that fact a bit and everything comes crashing down. 


The second flaw is that we are assuming that the pattern is repeatable. If losing money is B and not having a business plan is A, we are assuming that A has led to B this time and therefore will A will lead to B again. We have such belief in our analysis that we fail to take into account C, which is chance upsetting a big apple pie on your face.


So, once more how important is knowledge? Or even understanding for that matter (which is nothing but an aggregation of facts - Apples fall, stones fall, paper falls…hey, you know what everything falls! Eureka! I understood the principle of gravity!!!!)? Do we really need to know anything at all? What does lack of knowledge cost us? Lots of time, Lots of money perhaps. But does this matter to a real innovator, who is looking at a path filled with failures as opposed to a path of assured success?


So now, let me come to the abrupt summary of this article. If we re-read the articulations on the methods of accruing knowledge, we can suggest the idea that all methods of acquiring knowledge are flawed. And from that idea, it is but one leap to think that all knowledge is flawed (inclusive of this knowledge).


So, why do we need to know? Think about this, and maybe you can see why this article ends with this… 


Disclaimer: This article is a string of words strung together to create an idea, much like a bunch of lines connected to create a painting. This means that the article is neither about the words nor about the idea. Its purpose is not to inform, educate or lead you to an insight. . Further, this article's object has been cleverly covered with an SEP field, which means it is practically invisible. It aims to do something that is subversive and sinister. If you spot what it is, good for you. If you don't, good for you still.

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