Is there any such Thing as Useless Knowledge?

Peter B. GiblettStarred Page By Peter B. Giblett, 28th Jan 2013 | Follow this author | RSS Feed
Posted in Wikinut>Guides>Philosophy>Other

Are you a font of knowledge in your family? Every had anybody tell you that all your knowledge is useless? Can knowledge ever be useless? These are all questions we should think about.

Condemnation of Useless Knowledge

Quotations sometimes spur us to thought, and such is the case with the following quotation derived from the Holy Qur'an:

    God/Allah condemns those who learn useless knowledge (sura 2:96)

This came as an interesting thought, and of course at that instant came another thought:

    There is no such thing as useless knowledge - Peter B Giblett (2013)

This is not meant as a theological discussion but more a discussion of the limits of knowledge. The young school girl, in her first year of school is aware of the fact that she goes to school five days of the week then stays home for two days and indeed she can count from one to five on the fingers of her left hand - she only needs to know how to count up to five in order to know whether tomorrow is a school day or not, and at this time in her life she cannot conceive that there advanced mathematical formula that are used to calculate the flight path of a rocket to the moon, but that is not to say that these advanced techniques cannot become a part of her life as she grows and understands more about life and what she wishes to do. This journey is the same for all of us as we approach the challenges of life.

There can be some thought about condemning useless knowledge, because it could be said that the man who spends time researching for the joy of doing it is performing irrelevant research, and if he does it as a part of his job then it could be considered a waste of time and he may be fired for wasting his employer's time, so there are certainly practical reasons not to be seeking useless knowledge.

What is Useless Knowledge?

There is certainly a belief in some circles that useless knowledge will make you sound smart, but it can also be seen as a mark of a person that is frivolous with their time and in the context of the original quote it could also be said that mankind should not be spending its time on frivolous activities, yet today in the world there is a wealth of knowledge that can be tapped into. Is any of it useless?

Much will depend on how it is used, this is certainly an interesting question and much will depend on the point of view, indeed any item of knowledge can be of interest to John, but not to Mary, we should regard every person as having different interests and needs which drive their unique and personal thirst for knowledge. Understanding the technology that enabled the Thrust SSC to reach a speed of 764 MPH is not going to be of use to you when facing the police officer who is handing you a speeding ticket, your best help here could be knowing a good lawyer and having a sympathetic judge to listen to your case, all the knowledge discussed here is not frivolous, when used in its appropriate context, but outside that it may be so.

Mankind is well known for pushing the boundaries of knowledge and should be applauded for doing so, but each new discovery cannot be considered useless even when a theory leads to failure, because to know the way NOT to do something can be just as valuable as knowing how it works, yet for the scientist they have to fail in order to succeed in the long run. The doctor needs to know the workings of the human body, but so should any person that is seeking to live a healthy lifestyle - they have many common goals, but they do not need to know the same level of detail to succeed in their aim.

From Who's Viewpoint?

Much will always depend on viewpoint. A doctor looks at the human body from the curative standpoint whereas the person seeking to live healthily thinks about their personal health and long living; both acquire information from the same knowledge-base; each has a different view; each shares some common knowledge and goals; but at the same time each has different limits and uses for this information.

Indeed knowledge and it usefulness will depend upon the age in which it is used, a doctor from the 19th century could hit upon a cure which they are unable to implement because of the limits of the technology they are using, because the idea is documented it is seen by a researcher in the 21st century, who puts two and two together to bring about a new advance in the modern era, the marriage between the 19th century thought and the 21st century technology - the observations from one are building a spark in a new era. So was this old idea really useless? No, it was simply an idea born before its age.

The viewpoint at which we look at a particular atom of knowledge is so crucial and may indeed support this writer's assertion that there is no such thing as useless knowledge, there are useless inventions. But if a person spends a lifetime creating failed inventions are they wasting their life? Arguably no, because to paraphrase Edison, their failures can be the experience they gain in order to bring about a future success, indeed they may die before finding the correct approach, but provided each approach is documented then they will have advanced human knowledge.

Where will the Next Generation of Radical Thought come from?

Some time ago this writer questioned "where the next generation of radical thought come from?". Truth is few people think outside the box, let alone challenge the boundaries of the box, are you prepared to challenge the norms of society's thinking?

In another article it was stated that "there are some laws by which society seems to need in order to develop". These can at times seem converse and often antagonistic towards each other, they include inter-relationships between ideas, events, and other driving factors in society. Everything must be studied in relation to its movement and development at the time the idea was generated and we should consider the fact that opposites always seem to be drawn together and work in unison, indeed it can be the union of opposites that can bring great advances. We must also consider that one of the most important aspects of the human spirit is our inventiveness, the desire for creating new things and the entrepreneurial drive, that accompanies our desire for change, and in this regard dissent is actually a necessary trait as the world must always change and having people who question the status quo should be seen as a positive trait because this drives thinking forwards.

Knowledge to Spurn Action

According to Ali Hajweri "Much may be done by means of a little knowledge, and knowledge should not be separated from action" (from Revelation of the Mystery chapter 1, published in 1030 AD), we must also consider the fact that the pool of knowledge is immense but our life is short, so we must choose those elements that can help us improve so that we can in turn aid improvements in the lives of those around us, the journey of no two people can ever be the same, each must move in their unique direction yet they also must come together in order to achieve certain goals. This is where it is essential that you have goals and an overall direction that you can head to.

What is your Next Step?

The first step in personal change is always an important one and you should be taking a persistent series of practical steps in order to develop yourself, and ultimately you must know your path and remember you are not defined by your past, but it is important to find your path, that unique element which you bring.

One of the challenges of philosophy is that it tends to analyse without bringing associated corrective action or change that is so desperately needed. This is where a personal philosophy differs because it should all be about learning, improving and changing one step at a time.

Thinking about Contributing?

If you are thinking about making your own personal contribution then you should do something about it now - your view is as crucial as anyone else's, the first thing you could do is ADD a comment providing your own thoughts and feedback is always much appreciated. Sometimes however your thoughts transcend the limits of a simple comment and you need to make your own contribution of 300 words or more; perhaps penning your own article is more appropriate, well you can make your own views felt.

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Challenge The Boundaries, Irrelevant Research, Knowledge, Limits Of Knowledge, Original Thought, Personal Change, Peter B Giblett, Pushing The Boundaries Of Knowledge, Union Of Opposites, Useless Knowledge, Wealth Of Knowledge

Meet the author

author avatar Peter B. Giblett
Author of "Is your Business Ready? For the Social Media Revolution"

Social media consultant, with C-Level background.

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author avatar David Reinstein,LCSW
29th Jan 2013 (#)

I expect that, in the final analysis, the difference between usefiul knowledge and what others might brand as "trivia" remains, entirely, in the eye and mond of the beholder.

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author avatar Stella Mitchell
29th Jan 2013 (#)

As always Peter you have got me thinking , but what I put down as a response may not be useful knowledge , but it might be of interest to someone , but that someone might not get to read it , so I am not sure if that would be useful or not . So I will pass on my contribution , lest it be considered ' trivia' in someone's ' mond ' as David has said . :-)
Bless you

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author avatar johnbee
29th Jan 2013 (#)

Something for thinkers to think about.

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author avatar DuitByJames
29th Jan 2013 (#)

I enjoyed your article, I very often get caught up in my own efforts and carelessly share info not relevant to the listener. Off my wall; not theirs.

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author avatar Sivaramakrishnan A
29th Jan 2013 (#)

We have now access to so much knowledge but we should also use it wisely. Just enjoying the fountain of knowledge without pondering and dissipating is a waste. It is through sharing wisely that we benefit society. And knowledge is not like wealth - it never decreases even if you share whatever we know. Thanks Peter for this thought provoking share - siva

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author avatar GV Rama Rao
29th Jan 2013 (#)

My dear Peter,
I think we should differentiate between information and knowledge. Today we have surfeit of information, but all that is not knowledge. Useless knowledge sounds like an oxymoron to me. On the contrary, knowledge is power. The mind should separate information which may be trivia from knowledge on any distinct subject.
What you and I know about human body is information, and what a trained doctor knows is knowledge. This knowledge gives him power over us and he can take valuable decisions about our bodies and administer medicine or carry out surgery.

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author avatar Buzz
1st Feb 2013 (#)

Loved your insights, Peter. Useless knowledge is knowledge used uselessly, let alone wrongly.

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author avatar Delicia Powers
3rd Feb 2013 (#)

Great post....:0)

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author avatar Stella Mitchell
3rd Feb 2013 (#)

When I asked a learned friend what was the difference between knowledge and wisdom , the reply came , that we may have knowledge about any given subject , but wisdom is knowing what to do for the best , with the knowledge we have , that will most benefit others for good -- and then acting upon it . Sound advice .
Bless you Peter

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