"What really makes us smart is not our ability to pull facts from documents or decipher statistical patterns in arrays of data. It's our ability to make sense of things, to weave knowledge we draw from observation and experience, from living, into a rich and fluid understanding of the world that we can then apply to any task or challenge. It's this supple quality of mind, spanning consciousness and unconscious cognition, reason and inspiration, that allows human beings to think conceptually, critically, metaphorically, speculatively, wittily--to take leaps of logic and imagination." (Nicholas Carr, The Glass Cage: How Our Computers are Changing Us, pp. 120-21)
That quote from Carr is worth pondering. It speaks to the difference between the intelligence we gain from technologically mediated information and the kind of intelligence we gain from immersive experience as human beings. The point here is not that one kind of intelligence is evil and the other good. Rather, it is the importance of not succumbing to what some have termed, "data fundamentalism"--the tendency to diminish the kind of know-how "that comes from real experience and that can often lead to creative, counterintuitive insights." I think Carr's reflections point us toward the difference between knowing and know-how. between information and understanding, between knowledge and wisdom.
Of course, the tendency to mistake the accumulation of knowledge with the acquisition of wisdom predates the advent of computers and the internet. Jesus had strong words for the data fundamentalists of his day: ‘Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you tithe mint, dill, and cummin, and have neglected the weightier matters of the law: justice and mercy and faith. It is these you ought to have practiced without neglecting the others. You blind guides! You strain out a gnat but swallow a camel!" (Matthew 23: 23-24)
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