Tree of Knowledge

Topics: Experience, Truth, Sociology Pages: 5 (1649 words) Published: April 17, 2013
The Tree of Knowledge
It is important for society to find a reliable source of knowledge, as it is a powerful factor which helps society to attain success. As a good example of the significance of knowledge for society, the Tree of Knowledge from the Garden of Eden represents, not just a source of absolute knowledge, but how desperately human nature seeks that perfect source. However, the Tree of Knowledge does not exist in the real world. Thus, society is facing a problem of finding the most effective way to produce accurate knowledge because mistaken knowledge has no value. In his essay “The Hive,” historian and writer Marshall Poe points out two sources for knowledge: social consensus and experts. In the past, it was hard to gather knowledge efficiently due to equivocation, and experts were considered to be the most reliable source of knowledge. But today, the Internet has provided society with the convenient environment for finding and storing information. In his essay, Poe discusses the phenomenon of the web-site Wikipedia as an example of a successful effort in collaborative knowledge, which is produced during the process of communication and negotiation by society and experts concerning the information regarding an object of study. A professor at Harvard University and author of “Reporting Live from Tomorrow,” Daniel Gilbert suggests relying on the experiences of others, whom he calls “surrogates,” in order to obtain more reliable knowledge. Collaborative knowledge is based on society’s collective experiences. It is meant to accumulate and constantly update information from society. On the other hand, experts are a key for progress in society as they perform deeper research about a subject. Therefore, in order to produce reliable knowledge, society must consult with experts, while experts should consider the experiences of other people when conducting their research. It might seem at the first sight that the only reliable source of knowledge are experts, as they have more intense and prolonged experiences through practice and education in a particular field. Therefore, it is a common belief that in order to obtain true knowledge, society has to rely on the competence of experts. In his essay, Poe says that one of the criticisms of Wikipedia in its early stage was the point that “unless experts were writing and vetting the material, the articles were inevitably going to be inaccurate” (Poe 275). However, human history provides evidence that refutes this statement by proving that what once was considered as absolute knowledge was later questioned. For example, in the 18th century, Isaac Newton’s laws of motion became a revolution in a scientific world and for the next 200 years they remained incontestable until Albert Einstein introduced his ideas that revealed shortcomings of Newton’s theory. Thus, society cannot blindly rely on the conclusions of experts because, at their core, they are like all other people who “pass along [their] beliefs in an effort to create people whose minds think like [theirs]” (Gilbert 171). According to Gilbert, “almost any time we tell anyone anything, we are attempting to change the way their brains operate – attempting to change the way they see the world so that their view of it more closely resembles our own” (Gilbert 171). Experts attempt to do same thing, but their reputation in society gives their ideas an advantage to be successfully transmitted and accepted as knowledge. Still, accuracy of this knowledge might be questionable in the future. In order to understand how society decides if a certain idea or belief can become knowledge, it is important to look at the process of producing knowledge. Individuals generate personal beliefs from their own views. However, these views are based on already existing socio-cultural knowledge. Afterwards, using shared language, individuals bring their ideas and beliefs to society by making public statements. Further, these beliefs may become...
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