Comment: We have more information than ever – yet we know very little

Knowing the world is just a swipe away today. Is not experts long ago superfluous? But there is a misunderstanding.

What is the name of the new digital minister? Who wrote the novel The Plague? And what is the current quarantine period for contacts? Don’t you know – or are you ready right now? Then just google it! As is known, the Internet does not forget anything and knows everything. Thanks to digitization and the networks of the world, a lot of knowledge – or more accurately: a lot of information – is more easily available to many people than ever before. We are witnessing an epistemological revolution. Historians of history have often compared the potential for change with the power of book printing.

This is first and foremost a great achievement that must be protected. Knowledge liberates and strengthens. Knowledge drives the economy. According to the European Commission, up to 80 percent of economic growth can be traced back to new or improved knowledge. Knowledge strengthens democracies. This is most evident in places where rulers feel threatened, and where social media is blocked and information on the Internet is censored. With all the problems and challenges that the knowledge revolution brings in the form of fake news, hate speech, and overwhelming information flows: no one seriously wants to go back to a time when there was always only one truth, a pastor, a teacher, or just one broadcast of the available TV stations. A time when knowledge was limited to what you hit in your head through mindless memorization.

What do you still need experts?

But as is often the case when something is in excess, the supposed constant availability of knowledge also devalues ​​it. It is very easy and in a matter of seconds you can search for the current digital minister (Volker Wissing, FDP), but also for “Oven Plug”, “Headache Cause”, “Typical Infection Waves” or “Corona Vaccine Effectiveness”. The answers to all these questions are there, with just one click. What else do we need? Haven’t electricians, doctors, and epidemiologists become superfluous for so long now? What legitimacy do journalists and politicians have?

We all know the facts for a long time, we read it on the Internet. We carry knowledge of the world around us in our trouser pockets and speak only of experts with a sarcastic look. And I know better. This can be seen, for example, every day in the discussion about vaccinations and the rules of Corona.

The rule of half the dangerous knowledge

A few years ago, sociologists warned of the expert base that would become out of control for the ignorant. But citizens cannot be weakened so easily. Today, the dangerous half-knowledge era seems to be the most realistic and no less threatening scenario.

Read also about this

There is a fundamental misunderstanding here. It is worth distinguishing between knowledge and information. If information is the pure data available, then knowledge is what arises when that information is further processed in a useful way. However, this additional processing, which begins with the distinction between reliable information and misleading information, requires specialized skills and knowledge. Knowledge of methods and techniques is required, and experience in assessment is required. Virologists and drug researchers need to become more professional and specialized. Information is plentiful and knowledge is often scarce. We enlightened citizens will do well if we acknowledge this and appreciate the true knowledge of the valuable resource that it is. Anyone can search Google for anything, but nobody knows everything.

Leave a Comment