You Don’t Know Anything (and Neither Do I)

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“The only true wisdom is in knowing you know nothing.” ~ Socrates

Scholars are fairly certain that Socrates never actually wrote anything. Most of the philosophical marvels we take to be Socratic wisdom were penned by his follower Plato who was 40 years younger than the aging philosopher. My how times have changed! Generational differences in 400 BC Greece apparently did not preclude students from respecting their elders. Learning at the feet of the masters meant there had to be a dialog that included listening, evaluating, and discussing opinions and arriving at truth through participation. The operative word is “listening.”

From the time that humanity began recording thoughts into books, there has been a thirst for knowledge that is unquenchable. There has also been a perversion of knowledge by the publishing of aberrant thoughts that challenges the status quo. The fact that these ideas are different does not make them worthless, but on the contrary they add to the body of common knowledge that needs to be heard and evaluated. If there is a problem with our current society it is that self centered thinking can lead to ignoring opposing points of view.

We have one major advantage over the scholars of Plato’s time. We now have the ability to communicate ideas globally through means not even dreamed of by the early philosophers… if we choose to use it wisely. The two most common mistakes are to blindly accept a Wikipedia-like fact to be true without thinking and to fail to add to the collective thinking. Digging into the references footnoted in online articles gives credence to the facts summarized there. Nobody has all the facts, so it is the responsibility of everyone who uses this knowledge to add more experiential references to the list.

Today we also see the best of both the ancient and modern worlds come together in the Wikipedia of face-to-face learning sessions: the unConference. Subject matter experts on the program lead sessions and can fully expect to be challenged by other participants who are not headliners but have valuable ideas and experience. There is no generational bias, there is no cultural intolerance, there is no barrier to learning. This is collective thinking at its best. It is social, it is sharing, it is special.      

“I cannot teach anybody anything. I can only make them think” ~ Socrates