Knowledge, at least for me, has a very fluid and debatable definition. Like many things, the initial thought process of a question such as ‘What is knowledge?’ is simple, pigeon holed quite neatly in our brains.
The dictionary’s definition states that knowledge is the ‘acquaintance with facts, truths, or principles, as from study or investigation’, which in itself allows for a range of interpretations.
When I look back to the genesis of this novel a question regurgitates in my head. My intention from the outset, beyond a rather childish curiosity of the writing process and an overwhelming desire to be creative, was to wrap a question within a story and ponder aloud: ‘Is knowledge a drug?’ or to be specific, if we lived in an age where knowledge was tangible, instantly accessible, ‘could knowledge be conceived as a drug?’
To even begin, first the physical impracticality of this question needs to be addressed. Our mental image of a drug quickly inspires the thought of a liquid or pill.
When focusing on the definition of a drug, Wikipedia’s opening on the subject supports this. “A drug is, in the broadest of terms, a chemical substance that has known biological effects on humans or other animals.”
My scepticism on this point, or opinion to be less controversial, is based on the apparent parallels I’m able to summarise with minimal effort.
You have the ‘users’ to compare with ‘students’, the ‘proscriber’ with ‘teacher’, the ‘addiction’ with the ‘qualification’ and your pure drug is the truth whilst the placebos are fiction.
There is certainly something to be found in the class system; where wealth offers the most enriching drugs alongside arguably the most beneficial knowledge, whilst the working class labour with more practical drugs and less profitable skill sets.
I could of course reference the fleeting nature of a drugs effect and how this compares with the temporary enlightenment you feel after learning something new. Though initially interesting and enriching, without purpose the knowledge will soon find a home buried deep within your brain; not readily accessible without prompt.
Isn’t knowledge in its purest form an external entity that we absorb to better ourselves? Could Wikipedia be your medicine cabinet? Could libraries be hospitals? You form these basic associations and after a while they become clear relationships.
Perhaps just as important a question to ask is ‘would it be a good thing?’ Would we thrive on this discovery or would it join the long list of human achievements we wish we could disinvent.
Are we ready to learn with short sharp bursts of information or by design do our brains protect us from overload. So easily are we able to gorge our bodies with tasty treats, imagine how we would behave if books became pills and museums became sweet shops.
How would we treat knowledge if it were a product? A digestible entity sold to the highest bidder. And how would we rebel from this? What type of underground black market would that spawn? Can you imagine yourself downloading a profession overnight with a BitTorrent?
Granted there are no answers to be found here, merely perspectives to be explored and a bleak prediction for the future. But I don’t consider spending an inordinate amount of time contemplating this subject wasteful. If you can come up with anything that lingers for more than a few days it’s worth scratching the surface. Besides, any food for thought is good for the soul. Thank you for indulging me.
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David P. Philip