Tuesday, 3 November 2009

Information is not wisdom

There was a time when I was proud to say I had a book on everything. Yes, I have some special interests, but I have got by in life by being a generalist. This has helped me in my job, being able to work with lots of people, and seeing the links between what I do, what other agencies provide, and what is needed.

And in my time away from work I was always fairly handy in a quiz team, though some would say there is more to life than playing your joker on the "name the artist" round.

But along came the internet, and my stacks of books on obscure subjects became steadily more redundant. At first I held on to my repository of information, thinking that the www would never be a substitute for printed and bound pages. Slowly, I'm letting things go, freeing up some space, and clearing some tomes that have become rather dated. There's little I can just hand over to the chazza; I have to put the provisionally rejected books in a pile for a last once-over, and skip read, to squeeze that last bit of juice from the fruit.

Today I said goodbye to a book that I inherited a few years ago from my Aunt Beth, "How the city works" by Oscar Hobson, from 1938, but this was a sixth edition from 1959! It describes the workings of the City of London, especially looking at banking, trade and finance. The glossary of terms has no mention of hedge funds or sub-prime markets.

And now I have the internet to inform and entertain me. And what pearls of wisdom do I receive? E-mails teasing me, with pictures of camper vans on the back of bicycles. Information is not wisdom.


  1. This reminds me of a mostly forgotten conversation with my Dad many years ago, in one of the rare times I went to him for advice. I honestly can't now remember what it was about but there was a part of the conversation which centered around knowing and wisdom and there was a point he made which has stuck with me ever since, and that was;

    'Knowing what to do isn't wisdom, its just knowledge. Doing it is wisdom.'

    I have no idea if it was an original thought or something he had been taught. I have never looked it up though. I want to believe it was him somehow.

    Thanks for the memory.


  2. I'm a big fan of Frank Zappa, and in "Joe's Garage" he gives some (tongue in cheek) zen-like wisdom:
    Information is not knowledge
    Knowledge is not wisdom
    Wisdom is not truth
    Truth is not beauty
    Beauty is not love
    Love is not music
    Music is the best.
    I don't know if he borrowed this from some past master, or from some stoner he bumped into!



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