The Price of Ignorance


John Wright


What happens if your personal knowledge is inadequate to support your contributive participation in, and general understanding of, the world around you? Are you even aware that your knowledge may be inadequate? How does one assess their state of knowledge accurately? Is not ignorance a priori the basis for not knowing your lack of knowledge? Most important, what is the price you pay for being ignorant? What is the utility of having broad knowledge?

Let's cut to the chase ... the only ways you can sense your lack of knowledge are by exposure to natural or manmade events whose origin and operation leave you clueless, and by encountering people who appear to be very successful and who seem to speak a language in which most of the words and concepts are foreign to you. These events may stimulate your curiosity. Then again, you may conclude that they have no meaning to you, for you may be relatively content in your life situation. You might assume, incorrectly, that specialization is valid opposite broad knowledge. Both are essential.

For the moment, we will assume that you do have an awareness of your lack of essential knowledge. You may discover that truth when you learn the requirements to obtain a position in a given occupation. You may find yourself stuck in a job without upward or lateral movement, in which younger employees are advancing far beyond you. If you happen to be perceptive and introspective, you will assess how the people around you respond to your spoken and written thoughts and relate those responses to your knowledge base.

In general, all of us have large gaps in our knowledge base, and our issues in addressing those gaps have to do with three problems: 1) our inherent capacity to learn, 2) our limited sense of need, survival or otherwise, to advance from our current state, and 3) convenient means and time to grow in our knowledge. We expect, as children, to spend much time learning, for the world is rather new to us. As adults, we tend to abort the overall education process to devote time to the other essential processes of living. Thus, it is our personal experiences in the time and place in history that we live that determine whether we must react to our ignorance.

Lets suppose you do live in a turbulent time, economically, technologically and socially. The world around you happens to be in a state of rapid flux. You have few choices if you are to succeed, and none of them are easy or desirable for you, particularly if you are an "adult," for you are encumbered with the responsibility to make a living, and likely you have family responsibilities as well. You have limited time available for "re-tooling." You may have "maxed-out" in your ability to learn subjects that are more complex. You may simply be tired. For most of us, adapting to the reality of new demands placed on us is a serious and sometimes ominous challenge. Societal change beyond our level of preparedness is readily seen as an enemy of our happiness unless we can routinely and comfortably grow in our knowledge along the way, and adapt well to the changes.

Thus, we will now examine a few of the more knotty societal problems and individual problems that accompany changes in how we do things and in what things are available for us to do. First, however, note that change is inevitable across societies, for without change they stagnate and/or decline, and they eventually become the victims of other societies that do change. Change itself may be perceived as beneficial or harmful, relative to what has existed before, but our perceptions do not alter the reality of change. Most important, there is no such thing as a regulating mechanism to control rate of change.

So it is that we are concerned about maintaining or improving the quality and security of our lives in the face of change. Is it not timely to speak now of the impact of changes in our lives? Are we not aware of the major changes that have occurred within the past twenty years to our lifestyles? Do you simply plan to work an eight-hour day and find plenty of time to relax? Can any of us ignore the decrease in job security, the flattening and decline of real purchasing power in the form of lower real wage rates and increased personal debt, the increases in taxes, and the global changes in balance of power, economic and military? Are we unaware of our declining understanding of the technology under which our nations now operate in managing business operations and also the citizenry?

You may also sense that we are on the threshold of radical technological change in our discovery and use of genetic engineering. And if you observe the direction of socialistic practices, like social security and managed health care, the demise of welfare and affirmative action, and the containment of educational budgets, you are forced to recognize that your world in the next ten years, and your expectations, will become very different from what you have experienced in the last ten years.

There is now great hope for freedom from diseases that have haunted Humanity for thousands of years, yet we also see serious backlash in areas like benefits for the children of illegal immigrants. What does it mean for us to have very long lives in an atmosphere of ignorance? What does it mean to have ignorant and powerless people in great numbers, for whom we cannot justify integration into the mainstream of society through educational benefits?

You might counter that change has always been with us, and that we have proven to be versatile in the past to meet the demands of change. Let me suggest, indeed proclaim, that our abilities to adapt are very limited opposite the profound level and variety of societal and technological change that we are experiencing now. If you are an adult over age 30, simply consider whether you are more in control of your life today than you were ten years ago. I think we both know the answer to that challenge. Most of us are losing the power to be self-determined in a growth sense and otherwise free in our choices, and it has nothing to do with personal will or intent. It is the reality of inherent mental limitations in the bulk of the population that we know as Humanity, combined with blatant control practices by governments and businesses to focus our attention on the trivial. Our leaders are well aware of the misfit between the inherent abilities of the masses and the abilities needed to advance our civilizations.

What is the price of ignorance? At best, you function as a pet, and your master essentially determines your wellbeing. At worst, you lose all respect from those with wealth and knowledge, and you are simply a slave. And the ticket that determines where you ultimately fall, categorically, is the combined levels of your mental prowess and your motivation. Alas, your mental prowess is now far too low to succeed, unless you are one of the small and (percentage-wise) decreasing part of our population that can and does understand today's technology.

In short, the opportunities that were part of the vast history of Humanity are no longer present for most of the people here today. We have colonized virtually all of the readily habitable land on this planet. Our population continues to expand at an alarming rate. The abilities of the vast majority of people born today are not synchronized with the requirements to move ahead to a better world. Most of Humanity has been left in the dust as technological progress zooms by. Automation alone has made almost all of us obsolescent and unnecessary to society, and that process continues.

We see that the increase in jobs in the "service" industry is the only path we have to employ most people. This means we are accepting the reality that most people are unnecessary to providing for their or our physical needs, and that we are forced to find something for them to do to avoid chaos. What an insult! Yet, who can argue with that reality? We find that human life has been valued highly at certain times in our past, when the people needed to operate a town or colony were less in number and abilities than what was needed. What about now? Are you secure in the knowledge of your essentiality to anyone? Does your drone status increase your sense of self-worth? Are you hiding in a forest of trivial pursuits?

I suspect that you do understand the price of ignorance. More to the point, I know that you are concerned about ways to overcome that problem and all of its negative consequences. I suggest that you consider the goals of Destiny seriously, and choose to participate in the growth of all Humanity, by using our technology to improve us at the most fundamental, genetic levels. If you have not read Destiny, do so now. You cannot afford to miss this opportunity for growth.