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Read only memory

Via Reason, I’m a cyborg. With an exobrain.

We, generally, have access to information at all times. Instantly. Within a few clicks of a mouse or buttons on your smart phone, you can convert gallons to M3, find a recipe for goulash, do algebra, calculate adjustments for windage, learn first aid, confirm that Johnny Galecki was actually Rusty in Christmas Vacation, and anything you want or need. You don’t have to commit a lot to memory because you can look it up. In other words, you have a hard drive.

This is interesting to me. See, as a financial guy, I’ve spent a lot of time learning and retaining lots of information. I mean, other than dick jokes and song lyrics. Information that I and anyone else can look up instantly online. That wasn’t always the case but it is now. Seems the future will belong to those who learn to quickly look stuff up.

One of these days my kids will say something like I don’t need to know that 2.2 kg equals a pound 2.2 pounds equals a kilogram* or how to solve quadratic equations. And they’ll be right. What they will need to know is how to use information.

The future is thinking not knowing.

* ETA: LOL. From memory, I got it wrong. Shoulda googled it.

13 Responses to “Read only memory”

  1. emdfl Says:

    Yeah, but the problem is knowing how to think.

  2. Tomcatshanger Says:

    For most knowledge, I can be convinced.

    For other knowledge, not so much.

    The problem is, how do you know in advance what you need to know during the blackout, stuck on the side of the road, or what not?

  3. Mikee Says:

    In the words of the great Tappey Hugh Jones, Professor of Chemistry at my small Southern university circa 1979, “Having a PhD means I know where to look stuff up.” This idea has been around for a generation or two.

    Sure, accessible information is useful. So is a crowbar. Neither will actually solve a quadratic equation if you don’t know how to use them.

    Stanislaw Lem wrote entire books about the utility versus the futility of pure information, compared with an understanding of the reality of truth. He was writing to criticize the reality of Communist Czechoslovakia, compared with the information available to the subjects of its dictatorial totalitarian regime. Knowing the truth, as everyone did, was quite different than having information available from the government.

    And as an aside, THJ also said, “To succeed, you need a plan and a mind, and then you gotta move!” There is a synergy in use of knowledge that is essential to functioning in the modern world. Just ask any kid who learns about a hack in a video game.

  4. jcmiller Says:

    “I dont need to know that 2.2 kg equals a pound” — that’s backward. I’m not sure if this makes a subtle point about the subject of the post, or if I’m just being pointlessly pedantic. Probably the latter.

  5. SayUncle Says:

    lol. see, from memory, i got it wrong.

  6. JJR Says:

    Stanisław Lem was Polish, not Czech, btw. Lived in Krakow. Love his work, though.

    I remember one of my colleagues who was a history teacher relating a story about this neighbor who knew tons of obscure facts about history, more than she, and he would always brag about it. She turned to him and said “I’m still smarter than you and unlike you can put my facts into a coherent narrative.”

    Yes, you can look most stuff up (hurray for libraries and teh internets), but you do have to have a baseline of knowledge, otherwise you have the problem of not even knowing what you don’t know. 😉

  7. homer Says:

    Way back when, on the first day of class one of my engineering profs pointed to a large pile of books and told us were were not there to learn what was in the books, we were there to learn how to use what was in the books.

  8. Phelps Says:

    I don’t buy his argument, or carrying a stick with notches on it makes you a cyborg.

  9. Ellen Rose Says:

    My computer can take several minutes to boot up. Sometimes I need the information faster than that; sometimes I don’t.

  10. JKB Says:

    Looking up facts is good and allows you to avoid precision mistakes but you need to be familiar with a lot of facts in general. They help fuel your BS detector. You know, when the experts try to tell you it is one way, but it just doesn’t seem right. Without a familiarity with facts, you might well find it more difficult to see where the holes are and just go along with the “experts” to your regret.

    And of course, knowledge of some facts allow you to add value to others instead of just being Mr. Memory. And that is the knowledge economy, where you combine information in new and exciting ways to create something greater than its parts. The internet allows you to be exposed to more information and hopefully see a lot more combinations.

  11. _Jon Says:

    I agree with your point about knowing ‘facts’ is no longer of critical importance because they can be quickly and easily researched now.

    However, I don’t hire people based on what they know, I hire them based on what they know how to do.

    For example, if I need a database setup, any CIS student here can tell me that I need tables with normalized data. But how many of them know how to take a 5-table database concept and work it into a 9-table database design with 3 levels of normalization? From there, any of them can look up the syntax of the commands for “CREATE TABLE employees PRIMARY KEY name” and “SELECT name, phone FROM employees”.

    For a knowledge economy, having factual data in one’s head is akin to being able to turn a wrench in an industrial economy. Anyone can do it and it doesn’t provide much of an income due to the low barriers of entry for those workers – lots of competition.

    To be well compensated in a knowledge / information economy, one needs the same skills needed in a industrial economy (or even manual labor economy). A successful person in all of these needs to be able to put knowledge to use and coordinate the process to the desired end.

    The rewards in the industrial economy came to the designer or engineer who created the device, no the guy who put it together. The rewards in the knowledge economy come to the designer or engineer who created the solution, not the person who implemented it.

    (In all economies, the higher pay is earned by those who learn how to manage people and resources. The highest pay is earned by those who learn to combine management, vision, and motivation.)

  12. Jake Says:

    Not knowing that there are 2.2 lbs/kg means that when you plug 220 lbs into that conversion calculator and get an answer of 55 kg, you won’t have the basic knowledge needed to realize that something’s wrong.

    Having the basic knowledge behind what the calculator (or Wiki, website, textbook, etc.) is telling you means you have the ability to recognize garbage when you see it. Without that knowledge, you are utterly reliant on others.

  13. Chuck Z Says:

    Which is a clear example of how Al’s Glowball Warmening (AGW) has made it so far into the public consciousness. If more people had a breadth of basic knowledge and understanding, they would have laughed him off the planet years ago. When, however, they are left at the mercies of wikipedia and public school teachers who are often bottom-of-the-barrel educators who themselves are unable to think and apply reason, people are ill-equipped to think for themselves.
    Reason dictates that AGW is BS because we polluted FAR more at the beginning of the industrial revolution, than we currently do; that “homogenized” is a neat word for “fudged,” and the big orange ball in the sky is likely to be far more responsible for heating and cooling than we are.

    Just a case in point.

    Information, without the knowledge to apply that information, is worthless, and so is the inability to rationally and critically apply information or knowledge, especially when there are multiple variables or multiple unknowns.