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More Information Does Not Make Us Smarter

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As I read through my feed reader this morning, I reflected on how much information was available to me.  Equally a source of reflection was how little of it was useful, important or newsy.  For example, out of over 400 stories I perused this morning, one and only one, from a British source, contained a story about the fact that the weapons used in the Tel Aviv terrorist attacks Wednesday were home made.  The only other place I have gotten that news is from Yoni on Hugh’s show Thursday.  Viewed strategically, that is massively important.  It is a huge piece of information needed to battle terrorism.  But there it was, one small tidbit in an ocean of “news” about the next big film release and the shocking revelation, revealed over and over and over again, that Obama was endorsing the Democrat nominee.

But as important as it is to be able to sift information, we also have to know the difference between information and knowledge.  I was reflecting on this as I read the story about the guy that fell into the Yellowstone acidic hot spring.  There was no body left to retrieve because the heat and the acid dissolved it – entirely.  The story presents it as one of a series of increasing incidences in Yellowstone of people doing really stupid things.  It struck me that they probably think because they saw it on TV, they know all about it, and the warning signs are for the uninitiated.

My field of academic study – chemistry – is chock full of spectacular things.  Here is just a single example:

I saw that for the first time in high school, just like the kids in the video.  When I got to college I could not wait to get sufficient license and access to the labs and supplies to try that for myself.  I was a senior by the time I had such access and in the interim I had read the instructions, studied the theory behind it and seen other people do it probably a dozen times.   I had a massive amount of information about super-saturated solutions.  And yet it took me more than 15 tries to get it to work like it works in this video.

This video below, in painstaking and time-consuming detail, makes it look pretty easy to make box joints in the wood shop:

I watched it, bought the jig for a project in my shop, and proceeded to go through a boat load of stock trying to make my first decent box joint.  I doubt you will watch that video all the way through, it’s 35 minutes long, but you would think after 35 minutes of watching a video you knew all you needed to know – not even close.

Information is not knowledge, and we are not even discussing wisdom right now.

We have just been through a primary cycle where the information load was massive, but actual knowledge seemed pretty rare.  Trump dominated every single news cycle – he won the information war hands down.  In doing so, he blocked us from getting information or knowledge about the other candidates.  Moreover, by drowning us in information; we never really got knowledge about him.  Can we even have knowledge about him in this context given that he has never held public office?

Well, it’s serious now.  Paul Ryan is giving us a lot of good knowledge.  Ryan came to Trump’s rescue yesterday.  Who knows, if Trump starts giving us knowledge on top of the massive information load, this thing might work out OK.

Meanwhile, David French reminds the convention delegates that they have a choice.


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