“Dividing the Universe”

I only got through about half of Nelson’s “Computer Lib/ Dream Machines” but so far, I have thoroughly enjoyed his insightful thoughts.  Something he talks about that really interests me is how knowledge becomes power.  He also makes the relevant point that knowledge leads to a sort of “priesthood” because people who hold power become selfish of it.

Experts in their respective fields tend to “hoard” their knowledge but often times don’t realize it.  It’s like there is this preconceived notion that each field in the workforce or each subject in the school curriculum must be precisely divided.  Outsiders of a specific field will not understand what is going on within that field just like “tie-ins to previous interests and knowledge” are not encouraged when focusing on a specific subject in school.  With all this division, it is hard to make the relevant and necessary connections needed to relate similar ideas and get a holistic view of the way things truly work in everyday life.

Then there’s this idea of “specialization” which is hailed as the defining factor in the human race.  Many people attribute the success of homo sapiens over neanderthals to the development of trade and to the specialization of tasks.  Is this the reason why we humans are so eager to organize things according to subject or field?  Is it maybe ingrained in our being?

Nelson doesn’t seem to think so.  He talks about how the education system actually creates “chains” for the free-born human mind.  Nelson thinks we should view the whole picture when it comes to working and learning instead of making divisions where we see fit according to the way our brains are organized.  I cannot decide if these divisions that exist in the minds of many people today are natural or nurtured.  I also cannot decipher if the divisions inhibit or activate intellectual thought.  I suppose I will reflect on this post when I complete the reading.

2 Comments

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2 Responses to “Dividing the Universe”

  1. Erin Berg

    Erin, I think you bring up an excellent point here! When I read this, I reflected on why people “hoard” knowledge. Is it a matter of ego? Are we so conceited that we believe that other people will not be able to understand our technology and ideas? But really, when I think about it, I think that outsiders bring excellent perspective to an issue or idea. Everyone comes from different backgrounds, and has different experiences. Sure, someone’s take on your idea might not match yours, but it doesn’t make it any less relevant, necessarily. I think Nelson is right in that we need to be open, “free of specializations.” And I do think that it is partly human nature, like you said, that we create these so called “divisions”, but I also think that our society promotes them. It may be easier to “specialize”, but does it lead to a more effective and better society overall?

  2. halliedominick

    I think you bring up an excellent point as well. I feel like the hoarding of knowledge is seen on college campuses not by students but professors. (Other than professor Campbell of course). A lot of the professors at Virginia Tech are extremely brilliant but when it comes to sharing the knowledge it’s a different story. I think everyone has had that teacher that may have a phd but are more interested in research than in teaching. However, when it comes to your other point about specialization I can agree that it does restrict our minds but at the same time specialization isn’t a creative process. It is a process that was meant for convenience. And I often feel that convenience is the opposite of creativity.

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