The more you know…the less you actually do


The TED talk I chose to explore was Neuroscientist Stuart Firestein’s talk on the pursuit of ignorance. Not quite the ignorance that involves indifference to facts and ideas, but rather conscious ignorance. The idea stems from the theories of famous scientists and mathematicians that have discovered the foundation for all modern education. The more knowledge one acquires about a particular subject causes one to discover new “unknowns”. Thus, more knowledge leads to greater conscious ignorance which leads to more questions which leads to more discoveries, each of which leads to more questions and so on.

The scientific method, as perceived by the outside world, consists of groups of people who spend all day in labs taking data wearing white lab coats and then recording their findings which in turn become facts published in a journal or a textbook for other people to read about. However, Firestein explains that this is the completely wrong idea about the scientific method. Greatness in a scientist lies in his or her ability to acquire enough knowledge on a subject to be able to ask questions. Knowledge is an ever expanding ripple in a body of water. At 6:50-7:10 in the TED talk video, Firestein reveals the truth about how knowledge is the big subject, and ignorance is the bigger one.

Through all the philosophical rationalization of knowledge and the path to more ignorance, I believe that this applies to scientific education in the modern day and age. Part of the reason that many young students don’t enjoy math or science is because they have been told to perceive subject matter as concrete fact that must be learned in order to achieve high grades on the exams. This practice kills the true underlying curiosity that many young student may innately posses, and in turn causes them to hate certain subjects. The beauty of math and science is the vast amount of unknowns that exists in our universe all around us.


4 thoughts on “The more you know…the less you actually do

  1. This TED talk presents an interesting concept. I’ve never thought about how becoming more knowledgeable about a particular subject area leads to new questions, which starts the process all over again. I think from doing research papers in school, we’re so used to looking as far into a subject as the page limit and time permits us to do. This is what scientists do for a living, though. I also never knew that there was an actual term to describe this.

  2. This Fit Well Wuth Martys PoSt about Creativity And SChooling. If Ww Teach Discovery, Instead Of Memorization, MaYbe We Wngage TbeCrwative Learner… ?

  3. I love the idea of the bottomless pit of knowledge. I often complain that our education system puts too much emphasis on acquiring good grades, rather than the enjoyment and exploration of fields we are interested in. Learning for the sake of learning! So, let’s boycott exams and take a dive into Firestein’s vast unknown!

  4. I have to admit, I have pondered the idea of the benefits of acquiring all the knowledge attainable, so I really enjoyed your post. I particularly like the connection back to exams, and this “race” we are all stuck in to succeed on tests to showcase our “knowledge” but I find it so ironic since I believe real knowledge can’t be found in a textbook, it is found through experiences.

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