I finished the Steig Larsson trilogy last week and was speaking with a friend of mine who I not only adore, but who is simply one of the smartest people I know. We got to talking about my recent, Lisbeth-related assertion that ‘information is power,’ (in contrast to, but not exclusive of, the notion that ‘knowledge is power.’) I was reminded about how I am always going on about the sad state of affairs in a world of education where people are only too happy to open brain (note, not mind) and insert facts, then call it a day, rather than to employ the more organic and useful function of thinking. True that. But my point, à la Lisbeth, was that knowledge is actually based on what you do with information. You must have some information to work with. Without information, but with innate intelligence, you may be smart, likely quite curious, and certainly very interesting, but you are not yet knowledgable. It is on acquisition of information that one can actually demonstrate their knowledge – or not.
Take for example the situation of someone with misinformation, who then assumes (and in doing so already admitting they are sort of without intelligence, because you all know to assume only makes an ASS out of -ume) that they now have knowledge about something, and so they act on said bad information. Wrong – so wrong in fact, it is beyond laughable, it is hilarious. Without good information, and in this particular case, without context or much intelligence and common sense, the individual simply gets themselves in such a gigantic hole of misfortune that you might feel bad for them if they were not so ridiculous. Had this person acquired the information, then perhaps they could have demonstrated the existence of their knowledge. Unfortunately, in my (sadly all too real) example, the person is absent information, context or knowledge.
In comparison, one could be like Good Will Hunting; I have spoken of Will often. Will, like Lisbeth, has a photographic memory. In both cases this presents a dilemma because in their respective situations, the garnering of information is so easy, it becomes a default position from which it would be very easy to languish into uselessness. Will collects information (initially) and that is it, at least outwardly. It is the necessity to use, contemplate, cogitate and truly understand the scope of this information that leads Will to finally “go see about a girl” signalling the change that he has made. To simply spout off facts or read (though likely not fully understand) a broad spectrum of resources will eventually make you look like a total jack ass. It comes down to understanding information. Real talk, people.
And this is Lisbeth’s gift. She is socially strained to say the very least, though certainly not without reason. But her ability to understand, fully and deeply, the power gained by the acquisition of information underscores her knowledge. She is the perfect example of how to use information knowledgeably, though it must be said she is reticent at first to demonstrate this. [Probably a good litmus test of true smarts anyhow; those people who perpetually pontificate on their (pseudo-) intellectual prowess are generally not so smart… I mean, they have yet to realize that no one is even listening to them. Seriously. In effect, their conversations in the real world, on the internet and in professional circles are carried on with themselves. No one is interested. I wonder if it is some evolutionary coping/survival skill that they are unable to realize this fact.]
So, knowledge? Key. Information? Necessary. As another one of my oh-so-smart friends said, “It wasn’t the invention of the printing press per se that caused a revolution; it was when people learned to read.” To that I have to add… and then they learned to question what they read, you know, to actually see what it is they think they are seeing.
So, if you are unable to see the value and power that is requisite in good information, you likely have bad information or lack knowledge. I am glad that the folks I hang around do not fall into either category.