Free Knowledge Is Worthless (or Perhaps Much Worse)

 

The incomprehensible genius of the free market is that it is the most accurate measure we have of the true value of, well, anything. How much is yellow paint worth? Well, that depends on the demand for number 2 pencils. And other things that are yellow. How could a centralized planning system possibly respond quickly enough to be of value? It’s just impossible to reliably measure or design anything that complicated. One of my three kids is sitting on my couch, watching “Say Yes to the Dress.” Where are the other two? I’m not really sure. Which leaves several billion people that I’m even less sure about. And remember, I have only three kids. I can’t even control this system, much less the international economy.

The ultimate target of my current drunken rage is, of course, Google. How many people on the planet currently own smartphones? The best guess right now is 5 billion people, or around 2/3 of the world’s population. A remarkable number, considering that smartphones are an extraordinarily complex device that did not exist, say, 15-20 years ago. So this ubiquitous availability of the sum of human knowledge must be a great step forward for mankind. Right? I ask you to look at the current state of mankind and explain these benefits to me.

Surely the easy availability of all the knowledge that has ever been achieved would significantly reduce the level of stupidity in the general population, correct? Progressive politics killed around 100 million people in the 1900s. Perhaps you didn’t read that book. But with Google in your pocket, you will be less likely to vote to promote the same systems of ethics that led to such death and destruction so recently. Right?

If the Democrat National Committee and Hillary Clinton were not so crooked, Bernie Sanders would likely be president right now. Could you and Google explain to me how Bernie is different from, say, Mussolini? No. But he was nearly the president of the most powerful country in the world.

I think that most things are overpriced. Including (and perhaps especially) those things that are free.

Our founders were largely self-educated – the cost of their knowledge was significant. As the price of knowledge moves from inaccessible, to expensive, to essentially free, I suggest that perhaps the value of knowledge follows a similar trajectory, but on a steeper curve. What was once priceless has now become worthless. Worse than worthless. Those who have more of this commodity become not more valuable, but more dangerous.

Subsidizing college educations has not turned out to be helpful. The impact of improved communications leading to a smaller world has turned out to be dangerous. And the easy availability of infinite knowledge has been clearly destructive.

I didn’t anticipate this. But I don’t see how you can argue with any of it.

In the words of, I believe (I’m too lazy to Google it on my phone) George Will, nobody washes a rental car. So if knowledge is free and easily accessible, then it moves from priceless to worthless (at best). In the words of, I believe (I’m too lazy to Google it on my phone) Woody Hayes, nothing that comes easy in this world is worth a damn. So what happens when that most valuable of commodities, knowledge, comes easy?

I wish I knew. And I’m glad I don’t.

I need another drink…

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  1. CB Toder aka Mama Toad Member
    CB Toder aka Mama Toad
    @CBToderakaMamaToad

    GFHandle (View Comment):
    After forty years teaching in a community college, my image for American eduction in cynical moments was to bend over with hands together in supplication while pleading, “Please, Please, learn. Please learn.”

    My daughter, a homeschooled high school senior, is taking composition, chemistry, and calculus at the local community college.

    She has told me that a significant amount of class time has been spent on this very supplication.

    For students who actually want to learn, it is an impediment.

    She said she felt as though she and another student were the only people there in her composition class, since no one else was willing to answer any questions. I told her it was just like homeschooling then!

    • #31
  2. The Reticulator Member
    The Reticulator
    @TheReticulator

    Ontheleftcoast (View Comment):

    Dr. Bastiat (View Comment):

    I love Google. My whole life is on it. I use it every day.

    But as a society, it hasn’t had the impact I expected.

    That reminds me of a bit on Car Talk where Tom and Ray were arguing about whether two people (OK, guys) who individually know very little about some topic they are discussing collectively know more or less than they do individually. The consensus: Less.

    I believe that on the internet, the level of knowledge decreases exponentially not linearly as more ignorant people joint the conversation.

     

     Ray and I were talking about that the other day. (Tom died in 2014.) We pooled our ignorance between the two of us and as a result came to the conclusion that our conclusions are dumber than they would be if each of us was left to be dumb on his own.  Therefore it’s a proven fact that we would all be better off as hermits.   

    • #32
  3. Ansonia Member
    Ansonia
    @Ansonia

    Re: 30

    Maybe “intellectual” is the wrong word. I mean they frequently were people who were deeply  interested in history or the Bible.

    • #33
  4. Ansonia Member
    Ansonia
    @Ansonia

    The different people, in different areas of the country I’m thinking of, I just realized, do have in common that they were all pretty active in churches.

    • #34
  5. GFHandle Member
    GFHandle
    @GFHandle

    Ansonia (View Comment):

    All the good plumbers, electricians, welders, I’ve ever met were people who had pretty intellectual hobbies. While learning their trade, I sense they were also very focused. I think it’s easier for an apathetic student to drift toward some kind of associate’s degree at a county college than it would be for him to become a good welder or plumber.

    Agreed. But I remember a student who came to my office for advice selecting courses. He had a hangdog expression and hunched shoulders. When I looked at his transcript it was pretty miserable. Mostly Ds and Cs and Ws (withdrawal). In the course of things I asked him what it is he is doing when he loses track of time, when he gets so engrossed that he is surprised when he looks up and sees how many hours have passed. Without hesitation he said, “Fixing cars.” So I naturally asked him why he didn’t major in auto mechanics somewhere. His answer, “My father told me I had to go to college or get out of the house.” I think I see why he chose college.

    • #35
  6. GFHandle Member
    GFHandle
    @GFHandle

    Mike Rapkoch (View Comment):

    Psalm 63.

    Google cannot offer anything close to that kind of knowledge.

    “Fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.”  And our professoriat proves abundantly and repeatedly that knowledge ain’t wisdom.

    • #36
  7. Randy Webster Member
    Randy Webster
    @RandyWebster

    I really liked my time as a carpenter, but then I’ve pretty much liked all of my jobs.  We’re doing kids a disservice by steering them away from manual labor.

    • #37
  8. Mark Camp Member
    Mark Camp
    @MarkCamp

    The Reticulator (View Comment):
    Ray and I were talking about that the other day.

    Sorry, Reticulator.   I am unaware of something that apparently everyone else knows about you.  What’s your connection to Ray?

    • #38
  9. The Reticulator Member
    The Reticulator
    @TheReticulator

    Mark Camp (View Comment):

    The Reticulator (View Comment):
    Ray and I were talking about that the other day.

    Sorry, Reticulator. I am unaware of something that apparently everyone else knows about you. What’s your connection to Ray?

    It’s a completely fictitious and sarcastic one. Why do you ask?  

    • #39
  10. Simon Templar Inactive
    Simon Templar
    @SimonTemplar

    Randy Webster (View Comment):

    I really liked my time as a carpenter, but then I’ve pretty much like all of my jobs. We’re doing kids a disservice by steering them away from manual labor.

    Yep.  One of my best friends has a small auto-garage just outside the front gate of Camp Lejeune, NC.  His nails are never clean of grease and he makes a ton of money.  Only takes additional clients with a reference and if he wants a new paying customer.  Honest as the day is long and knows his cars.  What a concept!

    • #40
  11. Steven Seward Member
    Steven Seward
    @StevenSeward

    I can see the point Dr. Bastiat is making, but I think it all depends on the individual.  I came to computers and the Internet late in life at around age 54 (only about six years ago.)  A whole new world seemed to open up before my eyes, and I delved in full throttle.  I started by reading books about how to operate it (I couldn’t even figure out how to turn the damn thing on!), and slowly began using the tools and information in my professional and personal life.

    But I was motivated.  When I looked around at how others were using their computers, I discovered that a lot of people who had been doing this for decades only knew some basic functions and were not taking advantage of the myriad computer options available to them.  I chalk up a lot of this to the old axiom that “People don’t like to read instruction manuals.”  Luckily, I never fell into that camp, and it has led to the discovery of great things I never knew were possible with devices such as cameras, hi-fi equipment, musical synthesizers, etc….

    The other thing I noticed is that many, but not all people, only use their computers for only the most shallow entertainment purposes.  (I would mention “Cat Videos” but my wife might clobber me!  Please don’t tell her.)   Because we live in such an affluent society, many people are content to just “hang out” and have no inclination to seek more.  They have no desire to access the astronomically large amount of knowledge available to  them.  Before the Internet age, these same people would not have been visiting the local libraries, but could often be spotted in front of the Boob Tube.

    • #41
  12. Phil Turmel Coolidge
    Phil Turmel
    @PhilTurmel

    Steven Seward (View Comment):
    I chalk up a lot of this to the old axiom that “People don’t like to read instruction manuals.” Luckily, I never fell into that camp, and it has led to the discovery of great things I never knew were possible with devices such as cameras, hi-fi equipment, musical synthesizers, etc….

    I have the highest technical respect for people who will read manuals, in toto, especially if they are self-motivated to do it.  I do this when tackling new topics, and I am convinced it is a big part of my success as a systems integrator.

    • #42
  13. Ansonia Member
    Ansonia
    @Ansonia

    Re 41 and. 42

    Off the subject of the thread, but does anyone have any  reading  materiel suggestions for someone who knows as much about the computer as Steven Seward says he knew six years ago ? 

    • #43
  14. Dr. Bastiat Member
    Dr. Bastiat
    @drbastiat

    Ansonia (View Comment):

    Re 41 and. 42

    Off the subject of the thread, but does anyone have any reading materiel suggestions for someone who knows as much about the computer as Steven Seward says he knew six years ago ?

    Amazon has an awesome manual for the computer illiterate.  But I couldn’t figure out how to download it.

    • #44
  15. Mark Camp Member
    Mark Camp
    @MarkCamp

    The Reticulator (View Comment):

    Mark Camp (View Comment):

    The Reticulator (View Comment):
    Ray and I were talking about that the other day.

    Sorry, Reticulator. I am unaware of something that apparently everyone else knows about you. What’s your connection to Ray?

    It’s a completely fictitious and sarcastic one. Why do you ask?

    Well, don’t be so dang subtle!  You need to bring your irony down to my level. (But no lower, please.)

    • #45
  16. Steven Seward Member
    Steven Seward
    @StevenSeward

    Ansonia (View Comment):

    Re 41 and. 42

    Off the subject of the thread, but does anyone have any reading materiel suggestions for someone who knows as much about the computer as Steven Seward says he knew six years ago ?

    I am a Macintosh user and the books I found most helpful for the rote beginner were in a series called Macs for Dummies by David Pogue.  They are very descriptive for every little step, with things like “how to use the mouse properly” and how to navigate through the basic functioning.”  There are different versions written for the different levels of operating systems, and they are all written with a sense of humor and never become boring.

    https://www.google.com/search?client=firefox-b-1-ab&ei=QMaWW96aFtHGsQWhuqewDg&q=Mac+for+dummies+by+David+Pogue&oq=Mac+for+dummies+by+David+Pogue&gs_l=psy-ab.12…76487.91204..94116…0.0..0.175.1003.7j3……0….1..gws-wiz…….0i71j33i160j33i22i29i30.-CWD_RUi70I

    I see that author Pogue also has books written for Windows operating systems.  I would imagine that they are just as good.  His father just happens to be a fellow committee member of the Cuyahoga County Republican Party here in Cleveland.  That’s not why I bought the books.  It was pure coincidence.

    • #46
  17. CarolJoy Coolidge
    CarolJoy
    @CarolJoy

    KentForrester (View Comment):

    Doc, I’m still not sure what you have against Google.

    I love Google. I use it every day. I use it, for instance, to check things when I write a post. Misinformation is a bad thing, isn’t it? In writing my last post, for instance, I Googled to see if George Orwell actually wrote the “rough men” quote. (He didn’t.)

    This morning I googled “salty dog” to see if I remembered the words of that old folk song. I do that sort of thing all the time.

    Google won’t save us from socialism, going to Hell, or from mistreating our pets. But that’s asking too much of Google.

    Google leads us to information in the same way, though far more efficiently, that the Dewey Decimal System of the once ubiquitous card catalogues once led us.

    Doc, embrace Google.

     

    What you say about Google is very true, except for when there are differing points of view on a subject. And one point of view is espoused by Corporations who pay to advertise on Google, and the other is the point of view of those who don’t. Then the opposing point of view is only mentioned when it is a current news item. Then it becomes invisible.

    Example: recent court case where Bayer/Monsanto’s glyphosate ws found by the court to be highly toxic and the cause of non-Hodgkins’ lymphoma. That is a current news item, so if you google it, you will get the skinny on it.

    Then Bayer/Monsanto will take it to court. (They have probably already filed an appeal.) And somewhere inside the food chain that is the court system, the recent court decision will be reversed. (Possibly it will have to go to the SCOTUS members, who are sitting there due in part to being Monsanto supporters. Especially the two women that Obama appointed.)

    That story will then take precedence over the older story. And any info about the dangers of glyphosate will be reduced in number and consigned to far back pages of Google. Any information brought forward by the mention of the expert witnesses in the case against glyphosate will be  replaced by whatever expert witnesses the SCOTUS hearing brought forward.

    • #47
  18. CarolJoy Coolidge
    CarolJoy
    @CarolJoy

    Ansonia (View Comment):

    GFHandle (View Comment):

    Free or cheap does tend to get discounted.

    After forty years teaching in a community college, my image for American eduction in cynical moments was to bend over with hands together in supplication while pleading, “Please, Please, learn. Please learn.” Nearly every staff meeting was devoted to some magical technique for reaching what might be called the reluctant learner.

    A colleague who is still working tells me there is now current a view of students as nearly destitute, some apparently have to share a single pair of shoes! And this in Massachusetts. (Apparently, the new faculty hasn’t checked out the parking lot or the Iphone models seen everywhere on campus.) Patronizing maternalism is running the show.

    Stealing an idea from Kurt Vonnegut’s Cat’s Cradle, I used to suggest we should make it a capital crime to teach a college course. Then there would be secret meetings, coded textbooks hidden away, and actual learning taking place. We have gone from “college aspirant” to “college expectant” students as the majority. Not to mention the poor kids forced into college by well meaning adults (who don’t bother to notice that they don’t want to be there) in the false belief that it is either college or skid row for them. (Meanwhile, we have a shortage of plumbers, electricians, skilled workers of all sorts.)

    I tutored math for a couple of years, 2008 to 2011. It was amazing to find out how many kids in HS did not understand fractions. And parents didn’t realize it until said child was flunking algebra. Then hysteria would set in, as in “If the kid doesn’t get up to speed soon, how will they ever get into college?”

    Of course, I sometimes suspected these were the same parents who had pleaded with teachers in grammar school to up the child’s grade from a C to a B, again because of the “how will they get into a great college with a C in math from 6th grade?” argument. It is tragic that parents spend more time arguing with teachers over grade adjustment upwards rather than determining which part of a subject their kid is not understanding. The earlier a student is able to understand an important concept, the better off they are.

    And these were fairly affluent parents, too. I can’t imagine what the math aptitude is currently for kids in a really bad off school district.

    • #48
  19. Mark Camp Member
    Mark Camp
    @MarkCamp

    CarolJoy (View Comment):
    And one point of view is espoused by Corporations who pay to advertise on Google, and the other is the point of view of those who don’t. Then the opposing point of view is only mentioned when it is a current news item. Then it becomes invisible.

    Carol,

    You are right that Google produces completely one-sided results when you search for “Monsanto glycophosphate”.  Hit after hit, all condemning the product and the company, none giving any scientific references.

    I always go to Wikipedia first on questions of chemical product safety, since they often give a balanced report and references that I can check out.

    For example, on Roundup (glycophosphate) they present the scientific evidence on both sides.

    They mention a case where someone drank half a liter of Roundup an only had minor effects.  But the also mention that “Deliberate ingestion of Roundup ranging from 85 to 200 ml (of 41% solution) has resulted in death within hours of ingestion…”

    If Wikipedia were being one-sided, they would have condemned Monsanto for producing a herbicide which is so unreliable as a suicide method even when drunk in large quantities.

    On the “no risk” side they write this:

    1. “There is limited evidence human cancer risk might increase as a result of occupational exposure to large amounts of glyphosate, such as agricultural work, but no good evidence of such a risk from home use, such as in domestic gardening.[46]”
    2. “The consensus among national pesticide regulatory agencies and scientific organizations is that labeled uses of glyphosate have demonstrated no evidence of human carcinogenicity.[47][48].  
      1. The following concluded that there is no evidence that glyphosate poses a carcinogenic or genotoxic risk to humans.[47]
        1. World Health Organization (WHO)
        2. Food and Agriculture Organization, European Commission
        3. Canadian Pest Management Regulatory Agency
        4. German Federal Institute for Risk Assessment[49]
      2. The Australian Pesticides and Veterinary Medicines Authority in 2017 said that “glyphosate does not pose a carcinogenic risk to humans”.[47][50]
      3. The EPA has classified glyphosate as Group E, meaning “evidence of non-carcinogenicity in humans”.[47][51]

    Although they didn’t give any scientific studies stating that there IS a risk, apparently that is because there have not been any.  Wikipedia can’t be expected to make something up, just for balance.  That would be dishonest.

    And they DO cite the one study which states that there is a “hazard”, although it was criticized for failing to consider the broad literature: “the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), affiliated with the WHO, has made claims of carcinogenicity in research reviews.”

    • #49
  20. CarolJoy Coolidge
    CarolJoy
    @CarolJoy

    Mark Camp (View Comment):

    CarolJoy (View Comment):
    And one point of view is espoused by Corporations who pay to advertise on Google, and the other is the point of view of those who don’t. Then the opposing point of view is only mentioned when it is a current news item. Then it becomes invisible.

    Carol,

    You are right that Google produces completely one-sided results when you search for “Monsanto glycophosphate”. Hit after hit, all condemning the product and the company, none giving any scientific references.

    I always go to Wikipedia first on questions of chemical product safety, since they often give a balanced report and references that I can check out.

    For example, on Roundup (glycophosphate) they present the scientific evidence on both sides.

    They mention a case where someone drank half a liter of Roundup an only had minor effects. But the also mention that “Deliberate ingestion of Roundup ranging from 85 to 200 ml (of 41% solution) has resulted in death within hours of ingestion…”

    If Wikipedia were being one-sided, they would have condemned Monsanto for producing a herbicide which is so unreliable as a suicide method even when drunk in large quantities.

    On the “no risk” side they write this:

    1. “There is limited evidence human cancer risk might increase as a result of occupational exposure to large amounts of glyphosate, such as agricultural work, but no good evidence of such a risk from home use, such as in domestic gardening.[46]”
    2. “The consensus among national pesticide regulatory agencies and scientific organizations is that labeled uses of glyphosate have demonstrated no evidence of human carcinogenicity.[47][48].
      1. The following concluded that there is no evidence that glyphosate poses a carcinogenic or genotoxic risk to humans.[47]
        1. World Health Organization (WHO)
        2. Food and Agriculture Organization, European Commission
        3. Canadian Pest Management Regulatory Agency
        4. German Federal Institute for Risk Assessment[49]
      2. The Australian Pesticides and Veterinary Medicines Authority in 2017 said that “glyphosate does not pose a carcinogenic risk to humans”.[47][50]
      3. The EPA has classified glyphosate as Group E, meaning “evidence of non-carcinogenicity in humans”.[47][51]

    Although they didn’t give any scientific studies stating that there IS a risk, apparently that is because there have not been any. SNIp for room

    And they DO cite the one study which states that there is a “hazard”, although it was criticized for failing to consider the broad literature: “the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), affiliated with the WHO, has made claims of carcinogenicity in research reviews.”

    You proved m y point. You did get “hit after hit” of statements and opinions that condemned glyphosate. But the scientific research that should come up, from such established independent researchers as Warren Porter, PhD, Marc Lappe and a host of others is not going to be there.

    Wikipedia is a totally bought and paid for corporation. So the long litany of “facts and research” that you cited from Wikipedia only confirm my suspicions about that org.

    • #50
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