Knowledge and Power

I have always been told “knowledge is power,” yet I have never held this to be true. Imagine knowledge without purpose, what would be the point? It would be about as useful buying apples at the grocery without any intent of eating apples. Sure, you may invite a friend over and the apples will be eaten, but in all likelihood they’re just a waste. This decouples knowledge from power. Perhaps an application of knowledge can produce power, but it is not required to obtain and/or maintain power. As Robb pointed out, a star athlete has power, but little knowledge outside of their chosen sport.

In either case, I find it interesting that knowledge and power have very similar properties. One of which is that both are notoriously difficult to quantify. How does one quantify a human construct? One way in which we, as humans, can quantify power would be how much “stuff” or “money” someone has amassed. Yet, inherently most people toss this aside as an inaccurate because power can come in many forms. Political figures could be rather poor, and yet be very influential and powerful. How to quantify this? Can we quantify this?

One of the characteristics of being human is constantly searching for patterns. Our brains are sorting and matching machines, perhaps this is even the essence of humanity, the basis of our souls. When facing a problem such as categorizing or quantifying, I am a firm believer that there is always a way. That being said, although I do not know of a way to quantify power, there is a way. Perhaps through surveying a populous to determine political influence (such as an election process), how much money someone has amassed, or simply how often someone manages to obtain what they desire.

Similar to power, knowledges is difficult to quantify. It is not something you can point to and say “look, here is how much of it I have,” so how do we count how much knowledge or skill we have. One way, the easiest way, would be to create some sort of counting scheme for how much you have learned. The most straight forward way of doing this would be to use something such as Anki cards. Which is exactly what I am going to use. I would like to see exactly how much I learn and how effective I learn. Therefore, I am going to use Anki cards to keep track of different subjects in order to maximize how much knowledge I can obtain.

However, simple Anki card statistics is not enough alone to quantify knowledge. Knowledge without a purpose is pointless. Therefore, I intend to write a post about various subjects in the hope of demonstrating that I have learned a particular skill/fact, that knowledge has an application/purpose (no matter how abstracted), and hopefully others can use the knowledge I have gained.

I intend to write a short post regarding something I have learned as often as I get a chance to. I am hopeful that I can accomplish several posts a week and will post them here.

4 thoughts on “Knowledge and Power

  1. Example of people with lots of knowledge and no power: Jeopardy winners.
    Example of people with lots of power and no knowledge: Some star athletes.

    1. I would argue that athletes still require lots of knowledge. The knowledge might be encoded in muscle memory or reflexes, but I get your point. I’ll edit it.

  2. I agree that athletes have some specialized knowledge about training and so on, but it’s sort of enlightening to play the game of, “Who’s the dumbest, most powerful person you can name?” — using IQ as an, admittedly imperfect, proxy for “dumbest,” athletes are the best that I can think of.

    There’s also David Ogilvy, a successful advertising executive:

    They both took an IQ test he found in the back of a book. He got a 96 (“par for ditch diggers”), and she (his wife, Herta Lans) got 136. It changed their relationship. “Suddenly she’s pretty and clever and I’m ugly and dumb.”

    Maybe some reality television stars, too. The difficulty of naming powerful but dumb people, however, just adds support to the entanglement of knowledge and power.

  3. Insofar as money and power are related, lottery winners would also be decent candidates, as well as dumb children born to powerful families.

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