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Will we ever know enough?

The accumulation of knowledge defines us as human. Each epoch adds a new layer of knowledge. It builds on the thoughts of past generations. The proliferation of knowledge does not have a direction, a finite capacity, or a definitive goal, . It simply exists in context to itself.

In essence knowledge is only limited by our imagination. In the entire history of knowledge we have never had the ability to find immutable truths. Yet it continues to accumulate.

Is there some point when we should cease to accumulate knowledge and simply live our lives by deepening the understanding of the knowledge we possess?

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  • Gord G 50+

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    May 6 2013: Interesting responses. I realize conversation starters typically respond to individual posts. I thought I would try something a little different and post a general response based on the thoughts presented up to this point.

    I believe learning wouldn't become obsolete because as people are born into the world there is a need to educate them. Even today there is such a vast body of knowledge in the world that it would take many lifetimes for an individual to learn all there is to know. If we learn more about each other rather than expend our energy changing, would we deepen our empathy?

    I fully acknowledge that if we ceased to accumulate knowledge at some point in the future there would be many questions that would be unanswered. But do we need to answer them? Today we have all the knowledge we require to live a comfortable life. It would appear to me it's a lack of empathy that is creating most of the hardship in the world…not the lack of knowledge. Perhaps if accumulation was de-emphasized it would lead to an equitable distribution of existing resources. Does constant change destabilize the world?

    Obviously this question is hypothetical since it's unlikely we would be able to satiate our drive to accumulate knowledge. The intent of the question is to consider the affect of constant change. Most life forms on the planet remain in a relatively constant state. Our perception of other organism's intellectual inertia places them at a lower evolutionary position. But is our inability to establish a stable mind set more primitive in nature?
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      May 6 2013: Wow. I never considered this aspect of your question. Firstly, I don't think we can ever stop changing; we are always adapting and none of us will ever be the same. I agree that if we learn more about each other we would deepen our empathy, and it would be incredible if we were able to understand each other fully. However, I think there is a distinction between understanding and accepting. For example, I may be able to understand your emotions and have deep empathy, but we might not ever agree with each other and feel as the other person because we are all unique.

      For the second paragraph, I can't put it better than Edward.

      As for whether our inability to establish a stable mind set makes us more primitive, this thirst for knowledge doesn't make us primitive. We'll always have instinctual thoughts: run, hide, withdraw, etc. So in that aspect we are still animals. However, what sets us apart is our curiosity. Every species adapts at some point; they change their mindsets on hunting, foraging, and surviving. Even if phylogenetically we are as evolved as any other organism, the fact that we adapt faster and our mindset changes every day means we are at least more advanced consciously.
      • May 7 2013: "I may be able to understand your emotions and have deep empathy, but we might not ever agree with each other and feel as the other person because we are all unique."

        An astute observation Michael. Without question there are as many points of view as there are people in the world. That's why I feel respectful tolerance is key.
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      May 6 2013: Learning will never be obsolete, as we are wired to observe and to synthesize our observations and to connect ideas and observations in novel ways. We are constructed to learn and to try to understand things better. Information can be gathered and processed for all practical purposes in parallel.

      On a more mundane level, for an individual simply to gather more and more facts without considering their connections, implications, and potential application would be a misallocation of effort.

      I am not sure what you mean by a stable mind set. Many people have perhaps too stable a mindset.
      • May 7 2013: "On a more mundane level, for an individual simply to gather more and more facts without considering their connections, implications, and potential application would be a misallocation of effort."

        Your statement is on point Fritzie. I feel this is one of the major challenges of the information age.

        "Many people have perhaps too stable a mindset."

        I imagine you are referring to individuals with a closed, biased mind set supported by ignorance. I agree that is a negative form of stability. I'm referring to a shift away from the current volatile dynamic between knowledge and power.

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