"My Ignorance is as Good as Your Knowledge" --Asimov

Discussion in 'General Philosophy' started by danshawen, Apr 19, 2017.

  1. danshawen Valued Senior Member

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    No one here or elsewhere, in science, politics, or elsewhere seems willing to discuss this quote head-on. Perhaps this is reflection of Asimov's ponderous intellectual power, which was indeed exquisite. I was always a great fan of both his fiction and non-fiction works.

    Karl Popper compared the scientific method to natural selection. Natural selection MADE you. It made your BRAIN. It made the way it works. And it also made your imune system.

    What do we value most in terms of knowledge? Well, of course, it is knowledge that helps us to survive. Our brains, crafted by evolution, ignore billions of bits of irrelevant facts and data each and every second we live, gleaning from a torrent of information only those facts "truths" that are important to our continued survival. Do I have enough air? Do I have enough water? Where is my next meal coming from? Do I actually need to fear WWIII enough to dig a fallout shelter and stock it with food and weapons? I'd rather not, but you can make up your own mind as to whether you might wish to survive under those circumstances.

    Some of us value the precision or exactitude of knowledge made available to us through science. For example, we know exactly how old our Sun is, because we monitored the neutrino flux over the last 40 years and this is a measure of how old it is. So science can tell us with some considerable precision exactly how much longer planet Earth will be able to support life and our own survival. What other kind of knowledge can tell you that? A fallout shelter won't help. Neither will guns.

    Don't look to someone like president Trump to tell you. George Washington couldn't tell a lie, but Trump literally can't tell the difference, or else chooses to ignore the truth, which as we all know, is only a value, right? Those red states who all voted for him once valued having slaves over the rule of law set down in the U.S. Constitution, too.

    Global warming is real. Mercury poisoning the environment from burning coal is as real as the threat from using leaded gasoline when I was growing up; the same stuff that rusted out mufflers and so you had to replace your entire exhaust system every three years. Smoking causes lung cancer, too, but since the red states are the ones still growing tobacco for recreational consumption, they can't seem to kick the habit of poisoning people while denying them adequate health care.

    In a sense, the anti-vaxers are right. If vaccinations were not available, the human race would either need to adapt to new virus vectors, or else succumb to it in a pandemic and face mass extinction. Nature made you, and it surely can break you. Science and medicine won't always be there to save you unless you make the right value choices as consistently as nature does, and maybe that too is by design.

    Now, go ahead and discuss the "Asimov manifesto".
     
    Last edited: Apr 19, 2017
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  3. Xelasnave.1947 Valued Senior Member

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    Sounds clever but surely the context suggest "ignorance" is synonymous with "knowledge" so the statement becomes ..."my knowledge is as good as your knowledge" a further swap "my ignorance is as good as your ignorance".

    Alex
     
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  5. danshawen Valued Senior Member

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    Knowledge and ignorance are inseparable, yes.
     
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  7. Dywyddyr Penguinaciously duckalicious. Valued Senior Member

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    The full quote, for context: There is a cult of ignorance in the United States, and there always has been. The strain of anti-intellectualism has been a constant thread winding its way through our political and cultural life, nurtured by the false notion that democracy means that "my ignorance is just as good as your knowledge."
     
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  8. origin Trump is the best argument against a democracy. Valued Senior Member

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    When the full quote is read it basically is the opposite of what Danshawn implied by the partial quote. Now the only question is was the incomplete quote and subsquent incorrect conclusion a result of ignorance or done on purpose with full knowledge.
     
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  9. danshawen Valued Senior Member

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    Here:

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    The rest of the text I posted is completely original, and by that I mean, I didn't bother researching whether anyone else had ever used those words in that order, or the particular letters of any particular word in any other orderings that made any sense. I'm ignorant like that, you see. I'm as likely to paraphrase something I attribute as I am to quote it, as long as the meaning is not changed. And this isn't posted in "science", you will note, even though my response to Asimov's manifesto is based on the best science I know, and some of which was not available to Asimov.

    Current fears about WWIII and vaccinations were both created by means of the science Asimov loved. I'm sure he would have had much more to say on the subject. Is fear a better value than the value of knowledge that helps us survive? We could still be ignorant about atomic weaponry and vaccinations. And we could be extinct already from some pandemic or even one brought about by war. Knowledge and ignorance are inseparable. It is, as Astimov was trying to point out, very much a question of values.
     
    Last edited: Apr 19, 2017
  10. spidergoat Speak of the Devil Valued Senior Member

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    If anything knowledge, scientific knowledge, gains greater importance in the modern age, when making a mistake regarding the reality of vaccines or climate change can make the difference between life and death.
     
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  11. Yazata Valued Senior Member

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    I take that more as an expression of Asimov's own sense of cultural alienation and perhaps his own sense of personal superiority to the general public (the ignorant ones who refuse to be led) than anything else.


    My ignorance about X is just as good for me as knowing X, if there isn't any need for me to know that particular little nugget of information (and what justifies it and what all that presupposes). All of us (even Asimov) are ignorant about a great many things (probably the vast majority of the things that could possibly be known) and that's just the human condition.

    But there's more to it than that. I think that Asimov was misunderstanding things, interpreting skepticism as if it was anti-intellectualism.

    I think that it's true that there's a reluctance to trust arguments from authority, simply because they are the words of authorities. People need to be convinced first. That's probably associated with Americans' historical skepticism about the pretensions of old-style European aristocracies. That skepticism is still being applied today to the newer would-be academic, governmental, business and media aristocracies.

    I think that's healthy. It's certainly healthier and more intelligent than credulously believing whatever we are told by ostensible authority figures and then following like sheep.

    It's especially healthy when the authorities appear to have their own agendas, in which their own personal political, financial or religious interests might have more to do with motivating their conclusions more than any dispassionate search for objective truth. Even in universities, people often seem to arrive at their conclusions first, and only then do they seek out evidence and arguments that support whatever they already believe.
     
    Last edited: Apr 19, 2017
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  12. danshawen Valued Senior Member

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    I think Isaac hit the nail squarely on its noggin. What knowledge we value is the only thing that keeps anyone from being ignorant.

    Freedom, truth, Liberty are all values, and truth is only a value, even in math. Divide five apples between five people and one of them is inedible because it has a worm. Divide the worm in five pieces for even distribution only to find that one of the apples was also poisoned. Math can never capture the whole truth about anything either, no matter how meticulous the tally of knowledge about anything. We value the math that works to a purpose we value.
     
  13. Michael 345 Valued Senior Member

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    This one is really hard to pull apart

    My attempt here would be to say Asimov got it correct

    What he was trying to imply was that HE was much knowledgeable

    so much knowledgeable that the

    little ignorance which remained was inconsequential

    further if you (others) had this inconsequential knowledge

    THATS ALL YOU HAD

    My inconsequential ignorance matches

    your inconsequential knowledge

    Another way of saying I am so much smarter than you

    I like Asimov so I hope it was not said out of arrogance

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  14. danshawen Valued Senior Member

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    Isaac was anything but arrogant. You or we all are entitled to our own values, but if fear is one of yours, you probably haven't given much consideration to that choice. Clear?
     
  15. Xelasnave.1947 Valued Senior Member

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    I had never met the man but enjoyed reading some of his books, I think one on fiction, perhaps the only fiction I have ever read... The Gulag? and I liked his non fiction, in particular a small book where each chapter was about some interesting thing about science, mainly cosmology but frankley my memory is unhelpful.

    I sort to address the sentence by itself and treat context as the sentence itself and limit its power by not considering the author.

    I have a dislike for "sayings" much the same as I have for annologies. I am however no beyond employing them when they suit my need.

    Someone of importance says something nice sounding and all around seem to nod in approval that it is very clever and I suspect if such clever words were strung together by some no name their result would go unrecognised as profound.

    By itself the sentence up for discussion is all that I sort to comment upon, by itself unprofound, but stamped with authorship becomes deep and worthy of discussion.

    But of course the discussion is something else and the discussion claims the sentence not the sentence claiming the discussion and taken up to support an arrogance that should not exist for it leads to generalising issues and presents as a group adhom when sensible criticism is ample to destroy uninformed comment upon the established science of our day.

    Perhaps it is the arrogance that the words suggest to me that tick me off.

    Perhaps my background sees me remain neutral emotionally toward the other side of an arguement, perhaps as a non academic I am less sensitive to the perceived attack by the seemingly uninformed.

    I would suggest the grumble has always been around but these times make the grumbles audible because of the gift of the internet to all opinions.

    Alex
     
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  16. danshawen Valued Senior Member

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    Your own values have merit. Collect the knowledge that has value to you. Knowledge, if it is useful, supplants both ignorance and especially fear.

    Looking at the quote from that perspective, I'm sure Isaac would have agreed.
     
    Last edited: Apr 20, 2017
  17. Xelasnave.1947 Valued Senior Member

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    Thank you.

    I held the fear when making the post that I would be seen as a sock puppet of wellwisher.

    My quest for knowledge has made me realise that I know so little.

    By way of anology and to indulge hypocracy my knowledge is like a tank with a hole, the hole represents my memory, and as I try to fill the tank it empties and all the while the tank itself grows showing me more empty than full.

    And then in comparison to others I seem to be only filling a thimble yet it has the resonance of something much larger to amplify my meaningless chatter.

    Alex
     
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  18. C C Consular Corps - "the backbone of diplomacy" Valued Senior Member

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    He was one of my favorite authors, too. But he was sometimes just that: More an intellect drawing conclusions from piles of descriptions and accounts "on paper" than from actual, direct experiences. In an intro to one of his early stories that was being republished in a collection, he admitted some queasiness in terms of accuracy about the protagonist being in the scene of a bar. Due to he himself (Asimov) having never actually been in a real bar at the time the story was written. Fortunately that particular prognostic foray (into alcoholic establishments) seemed to be validated over time.

    Mmmmm.... Had to consult the whole "manifesto", not just the limited quote. Some other excerpts from the same "Newsweek" article (January 21, 1980):

    • We have a new buzzword, too, for anyone who admires competence, knowledge, learning and skill, and who wishes to spread it around. People like that are called "elitists". That's the funniest buzzword ever invented because people who are not members of the intellectual elite don't know what an "elitist" is, or how to pronounce the word. As soon as someone shouts "elitist" it becomes clear that he or she is a closet elitist who is feeling guilty about having gone to school.

      [...] As it happens, reading is one of those elitist subjects I have been talking about, and the American public, by and large, in their distrust of experts and in their contempt for pointy-headed professors, can't read and don't read.

      [...] I contend that the slogan "America's right to know" is a meaningless one when we have an ignorant population, and that the function of a free press is virtually zero when hardly anyone can read.
    The first part is either prescient decades in advance -- or much more likely, simply evidence that today's novelties ("The Revolt Against Deference") are really just persistent, routine attitudes that media eventually start ignoring for awhile before returning to emphasizing them again in future spasms of attention.

    Despite the broad ring of "American public", the middle part was probably '70s-'80s politeness for prime-grade stereotyping of flyover country between the coasts. Maybe the latter's own sheltered nescience and naivete about a population more interested in concrete survival, work, creativity, civic duties, and enjoyment of life than fixations over social utopian engineering schemes and an abstract reality of generalizations and statistics that said "pointy-headed professors" made their living from and dwelled in (respectively). If so, then simply driving physically through that territory instead of watching disparaging Hollywood portrayals of it and reading about it second-hand in NYC periodicals could have informed the traveler that its sprawling edifices, commerce, industry and technological affairs could not be established and maintained if the residents were that abysmally uneducated and unskilled. A month spent on successful agricultural property and observing a farmer strategically deal with one unexpected crisis and mechanical breakdown after another might also help diminish the notion of him/her being an idiot.

    The last part conflates a press which is free to present multiple perspectives on and interpretations about events with the embarrassment of its readers then choosing not to enslave themselves to a particular propaganda (i.e. the "truth" as endorsed by _X_ favorite authorities of whatever opinionated writer). Which is to say, at least one-third of an Orwellian proverb is clandestinely advocated by the article: "Freedom is slavery." Thus it's apparently deemed better to just declare them dolts that can't read / do not read than admit they preferred to dodge a "scholarly expert's" beckoning bottleneck supposedly waiting at the end of a free press's cornucopia of news / information.
     
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  19. danshawen Valued Senior Member

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    Very apt (that knowledge can easily escape the finite vessels of our minds).

    Notice also that the particular survival value of specific knowledge is a very personal thing. What knowledge is useful to a hatmaker is less than useless to a bricklayer, etc.

    And it is chiefly for this reason that even a leaky vessel containing knowledge can still be useful. From that perspective, ignorance is only a threat to us when we stop attempting to garner useful knowledge to patch it, or stop believing that we even need to try.
     
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  20. danshawen Valued Senior Member

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    Although Isaac's quote referenced the ignorance of the American public, to me it reflects a much broader appeal and spectrum of experience, knowledge and ignorance in general.

    I worked for 22 years at the former Comsat Labs, the dream-come-true Isaac's friend Arthur C. Clarke. It was not unusual to see Isaac himself walking the halls of Comsat, where he often visited his fellow mensans in upper management there (Joe Campanella, Dr. Evans). I still remember how tall Isaac appeared.
     
  21. danshawen Valued Senior Member

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    Finally, Trump's values and the values of those who voted for him are not the same values as most American voters who, like me, are from the blue states.

    We don't value ignoring things like global warming, or science or medicine in general.

    We get our vaccinations, and expect other informed citizens in contact with us and our families to do the same, if they are able, and for the same good reasons. We value not triggering a pandemic because we did not get ourselves and our families vaccinated. It isn't just annoying. It's criminal.

    We don't wish to own slaves or grow tobacco or promote a single enumerated right granted by the first ammendment to the U.S. Constitution over any other enumerated right. Freedom of religion and the right of gun ownership are important rights, but they are not more important than any of the other enumerated rights. Any conflicts between those rights will be resolved in a manner that is fair to protecting the greatest number of rights for the greatest number of citizens, and to the letter of the highest law of the land.

    When we take an oath to uphold the Constitution and the government it empowers by the consent of the governed, we mean each and every word of it, not just the menu items we like.

    We don't really care if the red states wish to seceed from the United States any more, if that is what they wish. Good riddance to them and their values and the politicians and their supreme court judges who share their "values", if you could even call them that.

    We want immigrants. ALL of them we can get, including ones fleeing red states because they don't share their misbegotten values.

    We don't like a president who does not understand the oath he has sworn to uphold or ignores or otherwise is incapable of executing his own responsibility in this. We don't like "elitists" or dictators or monarchs or oligarchs either, but that's another story.
     
    Last edited: Apr 20, 2017
  22. danshawen Valued Senior Member

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    Because freedom, like truth, is also a value, even the freedom to take a walk down a municipal sidewalk carries with it a responsibility to dress responsibly and to obey any and all local pedestrian traffic regulations.

    With every advance in freedom comes increased responsibility to make the right value choices to support the way we wish to live. Values are the most important things in anyone's life, so long as they wish themselves and their communities to survive. Choose wisely.

    This is the most important value or knowledge it is possible for me to instruct you. My greatest teacher, a Greek immigrant who was a part time teacher also working for the NASA which sent the Apollo program to the moon and back, taught it to our sixth grade class. Thank you, Mr. Komatsoulis. And thanks also to Isaac, the son of another family of immigrants to America.
     
    Last edited: Apr 20, 2017
  23. Xelasnave.1947 Valued Senior Member

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    I would if I was over there...they would probably bomb you.

    Alex
     
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