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Is Knowledge Evolving?

25 May 2011

Steve Jobs thought the key to unlocking human potential would be through personalising computers.

In way he was right, the personalisation of computers gave access to the internet, social media, and now the fast spread of knowledge. We no longer have to go to university, wait to speak to an expert, or even pick up a book, we just log on to our favourite social media outlet and receive volumes of valuable knowledge. This is a tremendous step for mankind, considering that in the past we have perceived knowledge as something to be coveted and only for the few.

Now knowledge is opening up being and accessed by the masses. We should consider how this will impact expertise and learning. Our first observation is that it is giving birth to a new type of savant, one that can grab knowledge from respected sources, then it extrapolates, experiments, theorises, and finally gives birth to a new evolution of the initial learned knowledge. A good example is open source, where software developers openly give their knowledge and work for the world to use. This phenomenon is allowing non developers to access, understand, and develop technology quickly and innovatively. It is the general consensus that open source software is better than software developed privately because it is open to everyones evolution of it. This is super exciting because it will open up technology to even the poorest of countries thus driving knowledge even further.

Our second observation is that no one can hold expertise anymore as knowledge is moving too fast. For example, we have been studying how the brain works for a year and making our extrapolations. This month we have discovered a new theory which puts our neurological understanding into question. This theory (neuron doctrine) holds that all information in the nervous system is transmitted by electrical impulses over networks of neurons linked through synaptic connections. But this bedrock of theorem is deeply flawed. New research proves that some information bypasses the neurons completely, flowing without electricity through networks of cells called glia. The studies are upending our understanding of every aspect of brain function from disease to how we remember and learn.’ Due to this new information, which was easily accessed through New Scientific American Mind, will now have to be incorporated into our work. Leaving us again at the start of our expertise.

We should not be afraid of learning new knowledge just because it may prove us wrong. Instead we should relish the opportunity to learn something new.