How do you know what to know?

Information How do you know what to knowWhen my generation was still crunching through their academic degrees in the 90-s, knowledge had some added value. Despite the fact that Internet and search engines had already existed back then, we still obtained most of our knowledge from books. When University Professor wanted his students to learn more about the subject of the course, he recommended a book he thought worthy of reading.

Now many students trust Google and Wikipedia to provide them with all the needed information, sincerely trusting that “million lemmings are never wrong”…

But reality says otherwise. In many important spheres the real knowledge still lies in the hands of chosen elite of professionals. And they rarely contribute to Wikipedia, for the simple fact that they are: a) too busy; b) disagree about most subjects.

So someone who proudly adds “Using Internet Search Engines” to his or her CV should remember one simple thing: in order to search for something meaningful you have initially to know a lot about the subject. Otherwise you’ll be forever walking in circles among other “experts”.

4 thoughts on “How do you know what to know?

  1. Anya, this is a good topic. I have to ask though, are you suggesting that there are an elite few in this world who have knowledge while everyone else is just muddling through information? I would suggest that in using the search engine, you really only locate data (facts and opinions). It’s not until you add meaning and value to the various data you collect that you create information. Anyone who then internalizes the information to, for instance, learn a new skill, develop greater understanding about a particular subject, etc. creates knowledge. So knowledge is specific to the individual rather than a elite few.

  2. Thank you for your comment! I have never meant any kind of elitist approach. What I wanted to emphasize in this post is almost exactly what you have said: if you don’t have enough information to understand the context – any acquired information would remain meaningless. Or, as classic said: “In order to ask a question, you have to know most of the answer”.

  3. Anya, good point. Some background relevant to the information one is collecting is fairly essential to, or rather influences, one’s ability to assimilate and internalize the information, in order to create knowledge. There are also other ways to create knowledge without having a background relevant to the information one is collecting. One approach is through the use of analogy where you relate what you don’t know to something you do know in order to develop some understanding. Of course, this approach may very well lead us back to your point of what happens when you don’t have a relevant background. Thanks!

  4. You understood my point perfectly! To get imbued with new knowledge one would require to reflect on and understand a certain set of fundamentals.
    In this particular post on Knowledge Management, you as an expert in such area knew what to challenge in my point, but you also new to reflect and create notion.
    Your examples hit the nail on the head, Thank you!

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