PostHeaderIcon Information vs Wisdom

Recently on the “Eliminating Authority” discussion thread, Chris offered an enigma:

Just to throw out a bit of a muse that I can’t quite figure out yet. In this day and age anybody can carry in their pocket the wisdom and knowledge of all recorded human history and every technology known. All the great philosophers, leaders, and critical minds works are at our finger tips. Yet we remain so stupid.

…that deserves its own topic for discussion. First, I would suggest that information ≠ education. All the information in the world, is useless to anyone not willing or able, to access and learn it. It is certainly not PC to say so; but there are a significant percentage of people in the world, for which what we might consider as ‘educated,’ is simply beyond their ken. Ever meet someone with an IQ of 100? Now, ponder the unavoidable fact that fully half the world’s population, are dumber still!

Then, education ≠ wisdom. True wisdom is difficult to acquire, without actual experience in the real world. Sure, philosophers and other sagacious authors, have been sharing their wisdom for posterity, since time immemorial. Yet, most are in such disagreement, that the seeker is generally obliged to apply his own experiences and thought processes, to sort the wheat from the chaff. Even then, his conclusions are likely to find considerable disagreement with another, employing the same mindful process. Yes, the simpleminded man can convert common sense and personal experience, into serviceable wisdom over time; but a smartphone will generally be of little use to him in doing so.

I have other thoughts, regarding how the powers-that-be really don’ t want most of the ‘workers’ in their collectives, to know more than just enough to do the menial tasks assigned to them, etc. I’ll save those for further comments below if this starts a discussion. 🙂 â—„Daveâ–º

16 Responses to “Information vs Wisdom”

  • My take? … when knowledge becomes wisdom.
    Next step? … when wisdom becomes being 😉

    • Forgive me, CT; but that sailed right over my head. I could agree that some knowledge is a necessary component of wisdom; but by what mental process would it ‘become’ wisdom? I am afraid I am not very adept at deciphering ‘guru speak’ or what I call New Age ‘word salad.’ Please explain what you intended to mean, by the use of the term ‘being’ in this context. 😕 â—„Daveâ–º

      • Oh my Dave I have not put much thinking process to this in many years. Let me see if I can do this as a short version.

        It is a long ago learned process not one I think about but just do like breathing.

        Where did it come from?
        Don’t remember for sure. Perhaps Maharishi Mahesh’s transcendental meditation training or maybe Jack Horner’s Dianology training?
        When I was 30? 4 or 5 years of fairly concentrated training.

        There are a number of levels of (mental/emotional/behavioral?) advancement (perhaps 10?)
        It starts at basic animal(a hodgepodge of self centered activity without apparent rhyme or reason)(honey badger comes to mind) that tops out at (zen/serenity?) of being. Where all centered self energy is directed with positive intent and purpose.

        The goal is … all of the education, knowledge, learning process and wisdom is no longer a thinking process. One just “becomes” or simply “is”.

        “new age” or “age old”? 😉

        • Uh huh, guru speak. I thought as much. I read a lot of that mystic stuff back in my early twenties, while searching for an alternative to Christianity in Eastern traditions. I eventually concluded that god was somehow me, and stopped seeking. 😉

          “new age” or “age old”?

          Excellent point! Eastern mysticism does have a plausible claim, to being rather ancient ‘wisdom.’ 😀 â—„Daveâ–º

    • Troy Robinson says:

      In the last several years of our IBM careers, St J9 and I worked as “Knowledge Management Consultants”. Three big words that, taken together, mean almost nothing. At any rate, we did get into the science of trying to get people to share what they know.

      As we learned, all the “noise” in the universe can be collected and recorded. This is called DATA.

      In expert hands (and with expert software help), data can be arranged such that it is infinitely more usable. This we call INFORMATION. And this is as far as others (alive or electronic) can advance things for us.

      The next step in the chain we call KNOWLEDGE. But there is nothing someone else can do to turn INFORMATION into KNOWLEDGE for us. Each practitioner must use his/her own intelligence and experience to render INFORMATION into KNOWLEDGE. That is to say, they must have training, education and experience related to the subject matter. There is a failed theory that INFORMATION can be arranged such that a moron can use it. If you have ever used a customer (no) help center to aid with a computer problem, you know first hand that this is not true.

      The next step we call WISDOM and this is available only to the very few who are able to mentally process KNOWLEDGE such that they fully understand what it is about. (When I was a child, my grandfather was fond of saying “I know a lot more than I understand about this”. Only recently do I fully appreciate what he was saying.)

      Having said all this, I realize that I really haven’t said anything important.


      • I realize that I really haven’t said anything important.

        Perhaps not; but you said it rather well, Troy. You also imparted some information that was new to me. I had not realized that J9 also worked at IBM. Thanks for checking in. We miss you. 😀 â—„Daveâ–º

  • Elsewhere, Kaizen has commented:

    I dispute Chris’s sweeping generalisation – …”We remain so stupid.” I disagree. I believe that the vast majority of the silent majority are now apathetic to the speed of change because of the speed of change. That, per se, now impinges on every facet of life. And even with access to the world’s knowledge base at the touch of a button, nothing, absolutely nothing replaces common-sense. That, I suggest, is what we (and I do generalise here), the current planet’s inhabitants, have forgotten. Furthermore, we spend too much time just “doing” and far too little time just thinking. If we thought more and did less, my guess would be that Dave and Thoughts Aloud could replace Google!

    …which deserves to be part of the discussion in this thread. â—„Daveâ–º

    • Chris says:

      Fair enough Kaizen, You dispute my sweeping generalization, but with due respect the rest of your response pretty much justifies that generalization and proposes reasons for it. Is it possible that the only thing you actually dispute is my actually saying that generally people are stupid? In my estimation common sense counts a great deal in my estimation of “stupid”.

  • Elsewhere, ClinicalThinker commented:


    Yet we remain so stupid.

    I am afraid we have not hit the bottom of the pit in stupid yet. After all the arrogance of man is astounding to me. We can send a man to the moon but can be build a GREAT PYRAMID? Are we really as smart and as advanced as a whale or dolphin?

    Sometimes I wonder if the average man is as smart as my cat …. I am afraid my answer would be NO! … LOL 😉

    …which deserves to be part of the discussion in this thread. â—„Daveâ–º

  • A smart person knows what to say. A wise person knows whether or not to say it.

    While I think they compliment each other, I don’t think the ratio is fixed. I think to some extent emotion can be a sign of intelligence as well, in variety if not in volume. Wisdom isn’t so much about what you know as it is the capacity to absorb it into your self. Things like fear and anger are pretty common in little animals, and if anything are often a barrier to deeper thought. When you get up to things like humor, empathy, and shame, you’re starting to see the difference between people who have great capacity for wisdom and those who don’t. As a parent, it was a great relief to see each of those qualities appear in my son. Each new emotion carries with it a different reason to care about things they otherwise wouldn’t. Motivation. Relevance.

    To take this further into a teacher’s analogy, look at how modern schooling is designed to cram rote nonsense into kid’s heads, because someone thought it was important. Kids don’t even have a place in their heads where most of this stuff fits, so it’s either forgotten or misinterpreted. Compare this to a pull system of learning where a child is just noticing something new and puzzling about a favorite activity, and asks a question. The answer, whether realized or taught, is all ready to fit into the worldview they’ve created. They’ll remember it so long as it is relevant to them, and in the mean time, it will be the catalyst and anchor for related learning. Wisdom becoming being?

    • look at how modern schooling is designed to cram rote nonsense into kid’s heads,

      Bingo Steel!
      I consider it “the system” to crush out of the box thinking.
      It has been fairly successful over the last 50 or so years.

      How many under 30 would last more than a week if there were no adults and the power gird went down?

      We live in a “too stupid to recognize stupid” world that gets worse by the moment unfortunately.

    • In their defense, if the power grid went down, survival wouldn’t be determined by rubbing sticks together to make fire so much as banding together with guns to hoard canned food. The problems have changed. Chief among them is population density. In the country they’ll be fine. In the city, the kid playing zombie games might be the best prepared.

      • In the city, the kid playing zombie games might be the best prepared.

        Well if they are a fan of “Fear the Walking Dead” they would at least have learned last night to drink their own pee if they get really thirsty. LOL

  • Chris says:

    I’m going to try and differentiate between knowledge and wisdom at it’s base level. It’s well known that many people can be quite knowledgeable but lack wisdom.

    Knowledge is what can be found on the internet. A collection of facts, processes, and known outcomes. Wisdom is the application of knowledge to a beneficial outcome.

    Wisdom can not exist without knowledge so in effect the “information super highway” has given the average man one half of the formula to make wise decisions. When a “millennial” needs a new iphone or video game how do they make the decision of which one? They go to the internet of course. They read reviews by others, compare features, and weigh them against price. All in the quest to make a wise decision. Yet when it comes to the solutions to solving the decline of the average working Americans financial security they listen to a nit wit like Bernie Sanders without even researching any history as well as current events unfolding today. One look at Venezuela should be enough.

    Of course there’s always the problem of misinformation or “false knowledge”. As Reagan famously said “Well, the trouble with our liberal friends is not that they are ignorant, but that they know so much that isn’t so.” It takes wisdom to sort fact from fiction but how does one acquire “beneficial wisdom” from “false knowledge”? I have concluded that nearly 50% of what’s on the internet and media is total crap. The only thing that tells me that is life experience. I / We have an advantage as older folks. The majority of our life experience didn’t consist of 50% crap. I guess that’s the frustrating part. We blame folks for being “stupid” when their wisdom comes from a lifetime of being lied to 50% of the time.

  • I eventually concluded that god was somehow me

    Interesting concept!
    I suppose I would agree that each snowflake is God in his/her own universe. That would be a universe of “one” since no one person is God over another.
    Shocking right? LOL

    I left all organized religion once I figured out “GOD” was simply a tool of each denomination. Their “our God” is better than “your God” and all of the crap that went with it was total nonsense to me. My rationale was simple … if there is “THE GOD” he/she is not going to give a flip how one gets “there” (or when) as long as he/she does.

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