The problem of knowledge

As this is in the domain of social media, I shall be overly cautious and convoluted at times, so as to head off my words being twisted out of shape by ‘bent minds’. First off, I am not saying that journals  are causing a problem! Next if I make what appears to be a general statement, I am referring to a significant percentage from my own thinking and observations. So, I am not referring to ‘everybody’.

The problem as I see it.

This morning I happened upon some article in The Journal of Applied Psychology. No – it doesn’t matter what the article was. In searching for the journal in a database I come across listings for thousands of journals. I click into a few of them. I could have been there forever reading all sorts of very interesting stuff, written by various experts around the world. These people must have spent a considerable part of their lives thinking about their topics and areas of research. They put a lot of effort crystallising some important perspective.

With so many thousands of journals out there I’m thinking, “Chrysst! What’s the chance of anybody sitting down to read this stuff? If anybody reads this, are they going to understand the key points? Will they spend enough time critically assessing the opinions/findings for robustness – and after all that, how or when are they gonna be able to use those key points to make some difference in the world.” So how did I happen across the article which led me to do a search? It was from a media article.

It’s not uncommon for the traditional and ‘fake media’ (aka social media), highlighting various findings from various journals. There is now much overlap between traditional media and what is seen a social media. Sometimes it’s not possible to draw a clear dividing line between them. The media tend to give only a basic headline and a brief write up. And what do ordinary people do with those reported findings? They incorporate it into their attitudinal and belief systems (either in part or in whole). But Joe Public does not have access to the original journal article to  dig into its substance. Why? Cuz the journal-houses usually charge tons of dosh for access by the ‘elite’ (it would appear). Did I say I am amongst ‘the elite’? I did not! There are of course free journals available online. So I’m referring to the ‘some’ of journal houses that charge rather stiff fees for access. And yes – I entirely understand why some will go ‘to be fair’ etc etc.

But the rich knowledge stored in free or subscription journals is largely unread by Joe Public, who may well be too busy on Twitter, Facebook or WhatsApp etc or reading distillates provided by traditional media. So what does this mean? It means that the stuff from the thousands of journals takes years to trickle down into the mainstream of public life. In the meantime, stupidity rules whilst wisdom languishes.

Stupidity is very fast. It needs only a few clicks and taps on a keyboard to get junk out into social media – where between 50-75% of people may accept about 50% of what they read. It’s true from my experience. One only needs to look at the total junk that is being sold online, nicely dressed up to appear credible – and then regurgitated by idiots. Wisdom has a problem in fighting back the tsunami of stupidity created by social media. This is a general issue. However, the wisdom and rich learning from journals is ever slower and more inefficient in making its way into the light of day.

Some of my thoughts in this post are driven by the Cathy Newman interview of Jordan Peterson. It’s apparent to many that Peterson is a very sharp thinker, with his vast knowledge at his fingertips. This is a man who has studied the everyday lives of people from his clinical work – and he has done his reading and research. The Newmans of this world had little chance of getting up to speed on that body of wisdom that is in Peterson in their briefings and preparations. It’s no surprise that Peterson and the likes of him, have a very difficult time transferring the complexity of their knowledge to ordinary people – who are already brainwashed by nonsense floating around out there.

Conclusion

Did I say that ‘everybody’ should simply accept what the likes of Peterson says? I did NOT! Did I say that experts should not be challenged? I did not? But if you’re doing some challenging, get your facts right and get your questions in order.

What I am saying is that the really rich knowledge is having a difficult time finding its way to the level of ordinary people. I am saying that media and ‘social media’ are getting in the way  – most of the time.

I’m saying, that it is important to take the time to find a journal reference from some library and read it, so as not to be brainwashed by a half- or quarter-truth.

I am saying that when an obviously intelligent expert puts together years of knowledge and experience in a few minutes, don’t be an idiot and ask some silly question by going, “I’m sorry if it’s a silly question but I have to ask….” Think more carefully and inquire in a way that draws out the wisdom of the expert.

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