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Is Knowledge a Curse?

"In an article titled “The Curse of Knowledge”, it’s noted that as a person learns more about a subject, it becomes increasingly more difficult to discuss that subject with someone who doesn’t posses that knowledge. It simply becomes harder and harder to empathise with them.

This means that the more educated and passionate you are about a subject, the harder you will find it to discuss or teach it to others.

This effect is one of the cited possibilities for why teaching is so difficult a career, since it means that eventually teachers will become more and more disillusioned with the endless wave of perceived stupidity they’re forced to endure."

All of the above is from the article I read online, not my words.
What do you think? Is knowledge a curse?


Closing Statement from W T

Knowledge........information obtained from experience or education.

A lot has been said in this debate/conversation about knowledge.

One may conclude that knowledge, in and of itself, is not a curse. Knowledge is essential in order to function in society, and in order to help others.

Knowledge though, is just the beginning.......there are other things worth seeking beyond knowledge...........

Among those other things worth seeking are............ understanding.......... discernment............and perhaps, if we are fortunate enough, we might obtain...........wisdom.

How we handle the knowledge we have is strictly up to us.

The world is filled with passionate individuals who hold a wealth of knowledge, and who also possess understanding of that knowledge. Wisely they seek to share their knowledge with others, whenever, and wherever they can.

The example of Nan Hauser which is discussed in this conversation is a fine example for all of us. There are many other examples worldwide.

May we all continue to see knowledge as a blessing and use it wisely to better ourselves and others.

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    Oct 16 2013: Any teacher who perceives his/her students as stupid should seek for another profession as soon as possible.
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          . . 100+

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          Oct 16 2013: ..
          The world desperately needs passion to be placed behind the corresponding job.
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        Oct 16 2013: 'OK......that's not going to happen. So what to do? '

        If we agree on this 'perception' as a general attitude, and not as a rare 'linguistic accident', it becomes obvious what to do. Withdrawal of teaching status!

        We would not tolerate any bus-driver in public transport who doesn't care for the safety of its passengers, so why should we tolerate people to teach our children who obviously are not suitable to be a teacher?

        Yet before this final decision is made, we have to be sure, that this attitude is not the result, a symptom of a systemic problem within our education system, in which teacher may find themselves as victims without influence for any positive change which in return makes them victimize the next lower ranked.

        This would not be an excuse, yet explanation, out of which systemic problems had to be removed.
        And if this attitude would remain after those positive changes, those teacher had to go.

        I had professors who spoke down to me, all other teacher never did this, which doesn't imply these were all good teachers.

        And ... wait ... let me think ... one sec ... hmmm, coffeeeee ... :o) --- no, I never spoke down to someone because of my knowledge, and this for good reasons. During almost all my school-time I struggled a lot to keep up with all there was to learn. I was dyslexic, not good at math and had a very different way to learn than it was presented at school. I was always curious about and creative with things, yet this interest was never synchronized with the curriculum and creativity no rateable subject. Therefore I know what it means to learn the 'hard way'.

        Not knowing is no stupidity.

        And have I ever spoken down to someone stupid? Yes, I have and those usually own higher academic degrees than I do.

        I think almost all professions have their specialized knowledge, which is at times difficult to share with 'outsiders'.

        to be continued ...
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        Oct 16 2013: What I found what makes people more vulnerable of being cursed are highly talented people who never struggled a lot with learning. This way, many of those didn't just become very knowledgeable and smart, yet they often have difficulties to imagine that not all people have their brains.

        By this, communication can become difficult for them as they overstrain their dialog partner while not realizing it and get disappointed when they do.

        To my own surprise, I found myself doing extremely well with those people. Not because I am as smart, not in a thousand years, but because I do not shy to ask what I don't understand and because I am genuine interested when I do. This often seems to be a release to them off their curse and they happily lower themselves down to my level, because by my questions, they get to see where that level is. Woks perfectly! And much of what I know today, I learned from those cursed ones ... :o)

        I also never shy to ask 'lower ranked' people, whatever that is, yet it exists in hierarchically structured organizations. And what can I say, it works as perfect as well and the other half of what I know today is thanks to those un-cursed specialists ... :o)

        Knowledge as a weapon I use exclusively in defense. And the rest of the time it gets openly shared with those interested in it. What else is it good for?
        • W T 100+

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          Oct 16 2013: I had never thought about the connection between people who learned easily disconnecting themselves from people who struggle. And then, further on in life struggling with the dissemination of information because they are oblivious to others' capacities.

          Hmm. So I suppose part of the problem lies in how we process information. And the fact that we are all different.

          So, here is a spin on the question.........do you think that both men and women are the same when it comes to discussing topics with lesser knowledgeable individuals?

          Read also what I wrote to Adriaan......could you perhaps address what I asked him also?

          Thank you so much for your insights......you gave me a lot of food-for-thought, like always. :) (maybe it was the coffee?...hmmm?)
        • Oct 18 2013: Lejan,

          The 1st thing a good officer does is talk with the Sergeants. I always talk with my techs about the current status and future plans, especially senior techs, and if they are good treat them as engineers.
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        Oct 16 2013: Roughly generalized, woman tend to be more patient and harmonizing compared to men, which certainly helps to bridge those gaps.

        Regarding the question you asked Adriaan, I don't think that many opponents don't get their 'point of view across' due to different levels of knowledge, as more by different interpretation and experience about that knowledge they have and exchange.

        Pure knowledge is usually easy to proof, yet how much knowledge is there we can be truly assured of?

        How many planets did you learn for our solar system? Today, its one less!

        History gets written by winners, biology evolves by levels of magnification, geography by wars and revolutions, physics gets less and less intuitive as deeper we go and so does mathematics.

        Most of the knowledge I possess is based on trust and interpretation. I have never measured the speed of light myself, so I trust the numbers of those physicists who did. Napoleon? Also there, I never went through all the documents myself to plot his live and deeds, so at some point in school I trusted my teacher who trusted historians. And this goes on and on.

        So what I really know for sure, is actually pretty little compared to what is stored in my memory, which isn't much and therefore sets the scale even lower.

        This is one of the reasons why I am more confident in most of my experiences, as I am about my knowledge, yet even there I am aware, that it is my interpretation of what I went through.

        When 'discussions end up being personal attacks' of which I don't know what you are talking about ... ;o) then it is usually based on different interpretations of how the world works, should work or must work. And as this is an ongoing experiment called mankind, applied knowledge and experience gets a little rough at times.

        Wouldn't it be plain boring without friction?

        Agreeing discussions are short. Yes/Yes/ Great! Whereas disputes can be a process of challenge and change. The rest is just sportful drama! :o)
        • W T 100+

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          Oct 17 2013: Some really great points!

          "This is one of the reasons why I am more confident in most of my experiences, as I am about my knowledge, yet even there I am aware, that it is my interpretation of what I went through."

          Perhaps that is why anecdotal records have their value in scientific research, no?
          Our life experiences are valuable are they not?

          And that was an interesting observation you made on Sandel using first names until he reached the doctor. Do you suppose that in that regard the audience felt beneath the good doctor when he began to speak?
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        Oct 17 2013: I think science is based on anecdotal records, they just get re-phrased when published to appear more professional and purposeful than they really are.

        Before I earned my own academic title I was highly impressed by those who had them.
        Before I worked in research myself, I was paralyzed in awe by those who did.

        Since ages our society is teaching respect to authority, what do you think are degrees made for?
        Its a class labeling, nothing else.

        Why should the private opinion of a butcher about, lets say, insecticides, be of any less value than those of a nuclear scientist holding a PhD in his field. It shouldn't, yet many people are easily impressed by those 'pedigrees', just as I was myself before I found out that there is no reason for that.

        When it is about meat, and when I trust my butcher, I listen to him. About radioactive dangers, if I trust my scientist, than he(she will be my choice. Its about expertise and experience, not about titles.

        The generation of my grandparents is exemplary for this sort of conditioning. In their village, the priest, the teacher of the village school and the mayor were by definition the most respected people.
        And it went even that far, that some people couldn't even imagine that those 'light figures' also had their business from time to time on the toilet, like anybody else.

        This conditioning has not vanished and still gets promoted today.

        I remember my first time in a private corporation when I went into the workshop, at production level. What I experienced was a mixture of rejection and submissiveness when I introduced myself to my colleagues. The typical 'blue collar/ white collar' skepticism, yet new to me at that time. And that very point you either earn your respect the long way, or you claim your respect the short way. And I leave it to your imagination what will be more beneficial to all people involved on the long run ... :o)

        The moment Sandel left his self chosen setting, he divided the audience in 'up' and 'low'.
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        Oct 17 2013: And this even despite the fact, that the medical doctor was the only one who could give her opinion based on her 'hands on' experience in exactly this topic.

        Nevertheless, some people in the audience may have unconsciously noticed this difference in 'respect' Sandel signalized in doing so, which for the impartiality of the debate itself wasn't helpful at all.

        It gets easier to disagree with authority, if you have authority yourself. It doesn't make sense, yet still gets promoted this way.
        • W T 100+

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          Oct 17 2013: "Since ages our society is teaching respect to authority, what do you think are degrees made for?
          Its a class labeling, nothing else."

          I think some people may let degrees go to their heads.
          Oddly enough, and I have mentioned this on TED conversations before, I have to try hard to show people that my teaching degree does not make me any better than anyone else. Most of the time, people learn that I am a professional from a third party, not from me. Because all too often people will shy away from talking with me thinking that I might be superior to them.......reverse discrimination is what I call it.

          So, I think that as an individual, we have to be aware of two things with respect to titles and degrees..........

          1. If you have one, hurray, but it doesn't make you better than the butcher.
          2. If you don't have one, hurray, but it doesn't make you any lesser an individual.

          Self-worth is important. I'd like to see someone with a degree in botany try to create one of these bridges.

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        Oct 18 2013: Yes, I think teachers have to face this beautifully phrased 'reverse discrimination' in line with policemen/woman, psychologists, tax inspectors and other 'cursed' professions.

        Its mainly fear-driven, yet annoying.

        To 1) it doesn't make me any better a person than my butcher, I do hope it makes me better in my profession than he is and vice versa.

        To 2) yes

        Those bridges are beautiful, aren't they? A degree doesn't hinder to build those bridges, as the technique used is pretty simple, its braiding. A single degree may run a bit short in lifetime for a whole bridge from start to walkable ... :o)
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          Oct 18 2013: Degrees are mostly about 'ritualized obedience', a friend once said.

          I find often those with degrees lack common sense and wisdom. It's just about money, job and status. A major reason why it doesn't look good for human survival. A race to the bottom with a bunch of worthless paper because we didn't understand what really matters.

          Economics is a subset and dependent upon nature, not the opposite. Until we understand that, our species is doomed.

          Happy humus....
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        Oct 18 2013: @ Craig

        Most of our corporate culture is 'ritualized obedience' and no military would function without - which wouldn't be all to negative in my opinion.

        On scientific degrees I would mainly disagree, as it comes for a reason, that you have to 'defend' your thesis. And this ideally due to its provocative claims!

        All good professors I had always encouraged their students to doubt their words and not just blindly follow the herd. This spawns discussion, argumentations, dispute and research, which doesn't align with my understanding of obedience at all.

        But, of course, there are also scientists whose main focus has become 'money, job and status'.

        I myself don't call them scientists, they are 'science manager' to me because the majority of them will be found in those management positions, rather than in 'hands on' research. They usually do fund-raising, project acquisition and lobby work, which gets them into different 'circles' which seems to spoil them. Their names keep showing up on publications and their name is pretty much all they contributed. In case of scientific fraud of a paper, these are the first to confirm of what I just said.

        On economics I have to agree with you.

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