Information Is Not Wisdom

Information Is Not Wisdom

Given the age in which we live, it’s easy to equate intelligence with access to information. And, of course, information is a significant part of knowledge and intelligence. But it is not wisdom. You could collect information all your life, and still have difficulty every day at work or in social groups because you haven’t learned to derive from information subtle forms of wisdom.


This is particularly true of becoming politically intuitive. You need connections with people who have acquired knowledge beyond what they're told. You can’t read the "tea leaves," so to speak, to sense what is really happening around you if you’re never invited to "tea" — or constantly decline the invitation.

The farmer who senses it’s time to bring in the hay, the race car driver who seems to instinctively avoid an accident, the fisherman who knows when to head back to port, the batter who can identify a pitch the instant it leaves the pitcher’s hand, and the intuitive politician all share an ability to read cues that others miss or ignore. They possess a particular form of wisdom — one acquired over time.

When we advise young people to seek out mentors, we do them an injustice if we fail to separate information from wisdom. Being connected, as is so popular today, can be a useful way to collect information. It is not, however, the road to wisdom. That road often requires doing something that we, in our adoration of the novel and new, often overlook. It calls for being around people who are likely older, perhaps seemingly less interesting than their flashier colleagues, prone to tell stories, and who possess an uncanny, keen sense of their surroundings.

Sir Isaac Newton once said, “If I have seen further, it is by standing upon the shoulders of giants.” He attributed much of his remarkable success as a scientist to having learned from the work of others. He was a synthesist, capable of drawing on the work of great minds. 

Synthesists achieve insights not from standing alone atop a mountain ignoring all that came before them, not simply by owning the latest technology, but by drawing upon the wisdom of others to take the next step. 

It’s useful to wonder whether our love of information and infatuation with connectedness is endangering wisdom. Add to this the tendency to dismiss people as they age. Culturally sanctioned fear and disdain of age places the very people who often possess what we need at the outskirts of society. 

We should all have a mentor whose hand is not so much on the pulse of innovation, but who has seen innovations come and go. We should seek out people who know from acquired wisdom what it takes to synthesize — to achieve understanding beyond the grasp of those who merely tinker with countless, shiny, titillating bits of disconnected information.

Kathleen also blogs here.

Photo: Brian A. Jackson/Shutterstock.com

‘Designer baby’ book trilogy explores the moral dilemmas humans may soon create

How would the ability to genetically customize children change society? Sci-fi author Eugene Clark explores the future on our horizon in Volume I of the "Genetic Pressure" series.

Surprising Science
  • A new sci-fi book series called "Genetic Pressure" explores the scientific and moral implications of a world with a burgeoning designer baby industry.
  • It's currently illegal to implant genetically edited human embryos in most nations, but designer babies may someday become widespread.
  • While gene-editing technology could help humans eliminate genetic diseases, some in the scientific community fear it may also usher in a new era of eugenics.
Keep reading Show less

Massive 'Darth Vader' isopod found lurking in the Indian Ocean

The father of all giant sea bugs was recently discovered off the coast of Java.

A close up of Bathynomus raksasa

SJADE 2018
Surprising Science
  • A new species of isopod with a resemblance to a certain Sith lord was just discovered.
  • It is the first known giant isopod from the Indian Ocean.
  • The finding extends the list of giant isopods even further.
Keep reading Show less

Discovery of two giant radio galaxies hints at more to come

The newly discovered galaxies are 62x bigger than the Milky Way.

This image shows most of the giant radio galaxy MGTC J095959.63+024608.6; in red is the radio light from the giant radio galaxy, as seen by MeerKAT. It is placed ontop of a typical image of the night sky.

I. Heywood, University of Oxford / Rhodes University / South African Radio Astronomy Observatory / CC BY 4.0.
Surprising Science
  • Two recently discovered radio galaxies are among the largest objects in the cosmos.
  • The discovery implies that radio galaxies are more common than previously thought.
  • The discovery was made while creating a radio map of the sky with a small part of a new radio array.
Keep reading Show less

The secret life of maladaptive daydreaming

Daydreaming can be a pleasant pastime, but people who suffer from maladaptive daydreamers are trapped by their fantasies.

(Photo: Wikimedia Commons)
Mind & Brain
  • Maladaptive daydreamers can experience intricate, vivid daydreams for hours a day.
  • This addiction can result in disassociation from vital life tasks and relationships.
  • Psychologists, online communities, and social pipelines are spreading awareness and hope for many.
  • Keep reading Show less
    Mind & Brain

    Why it's important to admit when you're wrong

    Psychologists point to specific reasons that make it hard for us to admit our wrongdoing.

    Scroll down to load more…
    Quantcast