Is technology really making our world better and what is knowledge?

Recently I was at the racetrack dropping off my new helmet to get the HANS anchors installed and be wired for radio communications when I struck up a conversation with another person there.  At first we were talking about schooling and the work it takes to become a PhD and what becoming a PhD entails for work in the future and how the responsibilities grow and become more abstract.  For instance, as an undergraduate you are given a piece of a project to complete; as a Master’s student you are given a problem and must define the project and complete it; as a PhD student you must seek out a problem, define it, and solve it; then, once you’ve obtained a PhD you then look at larger issues with multiple problems, determine the path to take, determine and define the problems along the way to completion, and truly decide if the issue is worth tackling.

This discussion soon led to technology and has it really made our world a better place?  His example was how the US has changed from the 1950s and 1960s to now.  In the 50’s and 60’s the US had numerous social movements and discussion that worked and brought about change, the nuclear family (wife raised the children and took care of the house, men worked and played with the kids at night and the weekend, etc), the work week was 40 hours and some would even say, everything was ideal.  Now, take a look at today, there really is no nuclear family anymore, both parents work, 40 hour work weeks are a dream for most people, we’re constantly connected to our work, there are social issues that are not being tackled; they are ignored and there is bickering between everyone – no one is problem solving.  Could we as a nation be able to have something as radical as civil rights happen today and not tear the nation apart?  What is the reason for the changes in our lives in the past 40 years?  You can look at technology as a major fact: TV, cell phones, computers, the Internet.  From a capitalistic stand-point the US more productive and profitable than ever, but from a human standpoint you could argue we’re backsliding.

From discussing technology, came the discussion of knowledge and what good is knowledge and information.  In a broad sense you can view knowledge as truth; however, that isn’t specifically correct.  Truth is in the execution of knowledge.  Truth is constantly being refined through knowledge, but knowledge by itself does nothing, it is the quality of the knowledge.  The Internet is full of knowledge — some of it terrible, some of it good, and some of it excellent — the problem becomes, how does one know what the knowledge is?  Is it good, bad, great?  The information overload has various effects: everyone has access to the right information, but how do they know it is the correct information?  And looking at all this from a scientific or even knowledge seeking perspective, how can one use all of this knowledge (good, bad, indifferent) to help in the search for truth?, it’s like TED but not. has videos much like TED and in fact, it seems to be like TED with the exception of the name.  Anyway, the videos seem to be varied more than at TED.  For instance, FORA has an interview with John Turturro where he talks about playing Jesus in the Big Lebowski and how he’d like to see a sequel with his character playing a school bus driver since all pederasts end up being school bus drivers.  There was also this interesting talk by Jonah Lehrer speaking about epiphanies and how they occur (which I recommend watching).