Chris Aldon

Student,

This conversation is closed.

Is knowledge finite?

If the universe is finitely small and finitely massive, then knowledge of the universe has a hard limit.

If the universe is infinite in either direction but to understand wholly we would need to break current laws of physics then we have a soft limit.

Is there any scenario where knowledge is infinite, or do we always have a limit on what we can know.

  • Comment deleted

  • thumb
    Jun 11 2011: I don't think we have the knowledge to know if knowledge is finite, Chris.
    • thumb
      Jun 14 2011: we certainly don't
    • thumb
      Jun 14 2011: but we have the knowledge to know we need new ways of thinking, especially a greater tolerance for uncertainty and the unknowable to move forward toward what is possible to know.
  • Jun 10 2011: If one arrives to change logic itself, one could see that knowledge is infinite.
    • thumb
      Jun 11 2011: Raph said it best.

      Imagination (imaginative knowledge) is the infinite.
      • thumb
        Jun 14 2011: a tendency to need conclusions and resolutions will never get us to the infinite
        to need conclusions is to limit knowldege
        knowledge has to keep moving, keep flowing, .or it just becomes a stagnant pool.
  • thumb
    Jun 17 2011: It is important to differentiate Information from Knowledge. Now, with that said:
    One can question

    What lies beyond the edge? Any erudite in physics and mathematics may say that "Change" is the only constant in our universe. Einstein said human stupidity knows no bounds, I hereby say today that even if we reach the borders of our now believed finite universe, the second constant will always be "Knowledge" itself. -Ramon Viggiani Z.-
  • thumb
    Jun 14 2011: In 1945, Pierre Teilhard de Chardin introduced the term Omega Point.

    14 February 1946: the day of the unveiling of the first electronic general-purpose computer (ENIAC), regarded as the birth of the Information Age.I

    n 2005, information was doubling every 36 months. IBM dataIn

    June 2008, information was doubling every 11 months. IBM data

    On 4 August 2010, Google CEO Eric Schmidt said: "Every two days now we create as much information as we did from the dawn of civilization up until 2003."

    In the end of 2010, information was doubling every 11 hours. IBM data
    --now relate this to the timewave zero theory.
    • thumb
      Jun 14 2011: so are we nearing the omega point?
      I think not
      I think we never wil
      lI think we are stalled out..that culture as a whole is overwhelmed with all this complexity with all these advances in science that actually uncover greater uncertainty, confirm more of what we don't know and what is unknowable..that the burden of this ever increasing complexity and ever expanding awareness Teilhard deChardin points to is just too much..so what is happening instead ..what I see here at TED..is that people are devolving back to the more comforable t and secure and simple level of the pre-rational mythic phase of cultural and spiritual evolution

      The territory knowledge can explore is infinite but the stamina for confronting the infinite isn't there..culturally..isn't there personally for most folk. What I see here at TED is people trying to build tribes of shared beliefs trying to create groups who agree in an almost mythic pre-rational tribal way

      .I think humans have a very big aversion to complexity, to the unknown, to the unknowable

      .Which means humanity as a whole will never reach the Omega point..it will repeatedly work its way up the spiral until the complexity is intolerable and then retreat back to the comfort of the pre-rational mythic

      .that's my working model anyway
      • thumb
        Jun 14 2011: maybe, depends on how you view the univers.
        • thumb
          Jun 14 2011: actually, doesn't it make knowledge finite whether rhe universe is infinite or finite?

          I guess I am suggesting that our intolerance for complexity and for the unknown and unkowable will always limit knowledge..that that aversion to compexity, uncertainty and the unkowable will always set a limit that is well short of even a finite universe. ( Knowledge implies human activity, human effort to know and discover)

          .Pierre Teilhard de Chardin was a mystic he had a limitless tolerance for the unknowable and the complex that is not present in culture as a whole..
      • thumb
        Jun 14 2011: but wouldnt you agree that technology is making the unknowable and the infinitly complex, easier to understand, orgainze and process? it was like trying to figure out how long Pi was until we got computers, made it a hell of a lot easier to figure out it is really long.
        • thumb
          Jun 16 2011: Hi Tim,I have come back to your question several times

          .I think the leaps in technology and sceince are remote for most people..it takes a long time for what happens at the level of breakthroughs and major advances to reach main stream culture and much of it will never reach main stream culture because it is inherently too specialized.

          So no, I don't think advances in sciencce and technology ( except for medical breakthroughs when they finally become available) reduce the sense of overwhelming complexity. My working theory supported by not much at all except my observations of the TED Community is that people construct information bubbles that reduce complexity and uncertainty to manageable levels. The more uncertain and complex things around them get, the tougher the shell on the personal information bubble...the more resistent it becomes to penetration by anything new that is not already connected to something inside the bubble ( e.g. a chess move or game if one is a serious chess player)

          So what we allow to be known or even explored as knowable ( in my totally seat of the pants theory) has a hard limit that gets even harder as uncertainty and complexity outside the information bubble increases. And all the while, at every moment, any moment, what is possible to know is infinite.

          And the big question becomes, what, if anything, can entice someone outside of their tight , hard shelled information bubbles to explore or include even a little more of what is knowable without limit?

          Continuing with my totally off the cuff theory, what it would take is a new model for science. I think we have outgrown the rational model of studying what is illumined,what can be repeated, forming hypotheses that already contain a guess at the answer to a more fluid and imaginal phenomenological model. ( something more like like Hawking uses or that Einstein used to explore complex ideas)

          .I think the rational scientific model is the limiting factor.
    • thumb
      Jun 15 2011: Tim.........How interesting that you should mention Theilhard de Chardin.. I read one of his books years ago....."The Divine Milleue". In addition to being a Jesuit he was also a paleontologist and he tried to meld the two. I was such a dum dum at the time that the book made no sense to me at all. I think I will try to reread it and see if it makes any sense this time.
      • thumb
        Jun 15 2011: he was a crazy guy, and he was a great thinker!
  • thumb
    Jun 10 2011: is the infinite knowable?
    • thumb
      Jun 10 2011: Good question, knowing what is infinite is a good start though.
    • thumb
      Jun 11 2011: Lindsay...............I think in our present state we can't understand infinity. No matter what mental resource I can put to use, imagination etc I cannot seem to grasp infinity. "Always" seems such a formidable idea. My 4 yr.old granson once asked me "gramma, how far do numbers go". I found myself at a loss for somethng to say.
      • thumb
        Jun 14 2011: I love your grandson;s question.. a budding genius there..

        What do you mean by present state? Bodily? or in terms of Cultural Evolution? or in terms of the evolution of consciousness?
  • thumb
    Jun 10 2011: is our capacity and capability of brain individually and collectively finite ? May be this could be another starting question.

    Knowledge is not static rather a dynamic flow...... logically it can go infinite
    • thumb
      Jun 10 2011: well if you're a determinist knowledge is a flow but it is linear.
    • thumb
      Jun 10 2011: Great point. Our brains will reach capacity long before we understand a mere fraction of the universe. I think it could be argued that to know the universe you would need a brain the size of the universe, or at least have one of equal mass. Then of corse the brain would have no room to learn about itself, so I'm guess I'm saying, there will always be something to learn, ALWAYS.
      • Comment deleted

        • thumb
          Jun 13 2011: I'm a bit confused when you say "our minds are not a product of our brains." How could you change the brain, structurally, or chemically, without also changing the mind. You can not perform brain transplants for this reason.

          At some point our minds do become contained in our brains, even though they are processed through the brain as well. I'm not implying the brain is a jar with information inside of it. It's more like saying a forrest contains DNA. It is composed of DNA of trees animals etc, but I think its fair saying it contains DNA as well. This may be a semantic argument though.
          I'm also not arguing that people can reach different levels of awareness, but to my understanding, there is always a physical component to it.
        • thumb
          Jun 15 2011: amazing Kathy..just amazing..where is that from?

          I like the way you have used and decsribed "mind" here and the relationship between "mind(s)" and brain. As a way we interact with what is knowable, it reminds me of Lynne McTaggarts "The Field" and is my own sense of how brain accesses what is knowable.
        • thumb
          Jun 17 2011: Kathy @ thanks to me

          People who think like you do..who synthesize what they read and learn from others with their own intuition, their own spirit are very very rare.

          your comments are always refreshing, ivigorating, inspired and worth pondering for quite a while.

          a great joy.
          .
      • thumb
        Jun 14 2011: our brains will expand to accomodate whatever we are willing to explore
    • thumb
      Jun 14 2011: our brains I htink have no intolerance for complexity and no limits as set by capacity. ( we already see around us he very great difference in performance and achievement that can be attained though mastery of the brain..I am thinking things like QiGong or tibetan monks who can sustain the cold with no damage at all etc. etc. ) As our pre frontal cortex has grown over time to accomodate the greater complexity..so it will continue ..but erhaps only to th e limits set by our intolerance for complexity and the unknowable..