Sunday, March 15, 2009

We Need Wisdom

A candlelit scene with Reverend Runt and Lady ...Image via Wikipedia

We have too much information and knowledge. It is creating a false sense of security that we know enough to deal with any kind of crisis. The current economic crisis prove that knowledge in itself is not enough to anticipate and avert crisis. As a group we seems to act more or less as a reactive mind. We rarely foresee problems and mostly lurch from one crisis to another.

Sir Arthur C Clarke was a British science fiction author, inventor, and futurist. He is well known for his most famous novel 2001: A Space Odyssey, written in collaboration with director Stanley Kubrick, a collaboration which also produced the film of the same name. In one of his interviews he talked about the relationship between information,knowledge,wisdom and foresight. according to him
The Information Age offers much to mankind, and I would like to think that we will rise to the challenges it presents. But it is vital to remember that information— in the sense of raw data— is not knowledge, that knowledge is not wisdom, and that wisdom is not foresight. But information is the first essential step to all of these.
He advised us to move from knowledge to wisdom and develop foresight, that is anticipation of problem before they occur and taking action to avoid them. We saw some of that in the Movie "Minority Report" with Tom Cruise with a different twist.

Recently ,Professor Barry Schwartz also emphasized about the need for developing wisdom in a recent TED talk. He is a psychologist who is also Dorwin Cartwright Professor of Social Theory and social action at Swarthmore College. He is a published author with a book titled "The Paradox of Choice: Why More Is Less".

Here is the video of his talk:



The video is fairly convincing but it raises some interesting issues. First is What is Wisdom? and secondly how do we go about developing it? We certainly do not teach it in our curriculum that is loaded with information and the knowledge of past practices. Wisdom certainly is not common sense that is mostly group think.

It probably will be our next quest to develop wisdom to solve our problems created by having too much information and too much use of knowledge that fails to take into consideration the interconnection of things. Knowledge is developed by chunking relevant data about a topic. The knowledge creation process isolates any information that is not relevant. May be wisdom is the interconnection of several chunks of knowledge that exists in isolation in independent disciplines. It is a hard problem how to accomplish this.

This will be our next project if we want to solve our current crisis. The existing approaches are not working.

How do we learn wisdom? Here is a way outlined by Chinese pragmatic philosopher Confucius
By three methods. We may learn wisdom: First, by reflection, which is noblest; Second, by imitation, which is easiest; and third by experience, which is the bitterest.


2 comments:

ArcAnge1M said...

Have you given any thought to how we develop wise technology, processes, or thought?

Javed Alam said...

These processes are not easy to develop because our decision making process is using the specialized knowledge that is getting narrower and narrower in its outlook. The specialist spend ten to fifteen years to learn a lot about one aspect of a broader problem.

We can put specialist in a team but because of different vocabulary teams do not function well. How we break this bottleneck that may be the development of wisdom. That is developing connections between different well established knowledge fields.

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