In an Information Age, Is Our Knowledge Exceeding Our Wisdom?

By: Michael McQueen

Is our knowledge exceeding our wisdom?

While the two terms are often associated, they are far from synonymous. In an age saturated with information, the ability to handle this knowledge is essential – and yet, we are at risk of a dangerous wisdom deficit.

In recent weeks, I’ve been reflecting on the degree to which my own profession and profile makes it hard to prioritize wisdom. Whether it’s speedily scanning volumes of research in preparation for a presentation, assembling bite-sized content pieces to share on social media, or crafting soundbite responses for media interviews, I too easily find myself merely trading in knowledge and information. While quality trumps quantity when it comes to thinking and ideas, I increasingly find myself consumed in the quantity game all too often.

I suspect that I’m far from alone in this.

In all of human history, the individual has never been as informed as we are today. News and fake news, fact and fiction, information, misinformation and disinformation are quite literally at our fingertips. This excess of knowledge has equally led to an excess of power. Our technology has never been so advanced, and the implications of its use have never been so significant. Artificial Intelligence especially grants us greater abilities than we would have thought possible and, alongside the plethora of powerful technologies available at the moment, its development continues to accelerate exponentially.

We quite literally have more knowledge and more power than we know what to do with – and this is the problem. Both our knowledge and our power become dangerous if our wisdom does not keep pace with them.

What is Wisdom?

If wisdom is more than merely the accumulation of information or knowledge, then what is it? Here are 5 attributes that I’d suggest characterise wisdom:

1. Wisdom is slow rather than hasty.

There is a slow and steady pace to wisdom. While knowledge hastens to act and execute, wisdom is considered, restrained and discerning. Wise people are often characterised by a distinct air of calm – they are unhurried and non-anxious and do not respond to the pressure to rush into decisions and conclusions.

2. Wisdom is nuanced rather than superficial.

Where knowledge is prone to seeing things in terms of the black and white, wisdom is able to find truth in opposing perspectives and nuance in shades of grey. Ambiguity is not threatening to wisdom.

3. Wisdom is curious rather than certain.

There is an attractive certainty that comes with acquiring knowledge. We become comfortable in our ivory towers and intellect and fail to maintain a posture of curiosity. Rather than remain open to discovery and change, we become highly adept at arguing for our point of view. In contrast, wisdom embraces a posture of humility borne of curiosity and wonder.

4. Wisdom is deliberate rather than reactive.

Where our knowledge can lead us to react with defensiveness when our position is threatened, wisdom takes a slow and deliberate approach to others. Often, wisdom will first turn us inward to interrogate our own assumptions and reactions before responding.

5. Wisdom impacts rather than impresses.

Dazzling others with our knowledge and intelligence is appealing, but it is fundamentally opposite to wisdom. Where knowledge puffs up, wisdom builds up. Knowledge prioritises the ego, while wisdom prioritises the other.

Although we live in an age that’s abundant with sources of knowledge, I suspect that wisdom is what people are yearning for. Those we are looking for serve and engage are increasingly craving more than a fast-food diet of facts and information. Instead, they’re seeking out the input and perspective of those individuals willing to do the work of thinking deeply, deliberately, and diligently – and thus have real wisdom to share. My goal is to redouble my efforts to become one such person. Who’s keen to join me?

Article supplied with thanks to Michael McQueen.

About the Author: Michael is a trends forecaster, business strategist and award-winning conference speaker.

Feature image: Photo by Philip Strong on Unsplash

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