Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Knowledge Allergic Information Addiction: Symptoms and Treatments

There are at least two significant negative effects of being a knowledge allergic information addict. First it is a self-marginalizing condition since the more its victims emphasize the differences between things the less like anything else they will see themselves as being. In the case of politically extreme knowledge allergic information addicts, this progression works along these lines: “First I used information to marginalize the liberals/conservatives (since I am not one of them and believe they are not good people). Then I used information to marginalize the moderates. Then I used information to marginalize those on my side of the political spectrum who disagree with me on any political issue. Then I used information to marginalize those who agree with me politically but not on other areas. And so on until I was the only right-thinking person left.” Rest assured this progression works beyond the political domain. As this symptom progresses victims increasingly see the world as being populated by opponents united in complex conspiracies against them.

A second major debilitating symptom of being a knowledge allergic information addict is that regardless of how much information you amass the world seems, if anything, less comprehensible. In the epistemology described here, complexity reflects the ratio of information to knowledge in the given person’s perspective. This means that the more you focus on the differences between things rather than their similarities, the greater the complexity you will experience around you. For knowledge allergic information addicts this complexity can defy comprehension. This is because complexity is reduced through understanding, which is the conversion of information into knowledge. The basis of understanding is the realization that things are connected by what separates them. For instance, the bricks in a wall are connected by the mortar that separates them. However those who are allergic to knowledge resist their allergen through a symptomatic tendency to not see the connections between things their information separates. As long as this inclination persists understanding of the world around them will continue to elude them.

These symptoms incline knowledge allergic information addicts to perceive the world around them as an incomprehensible place full of people who are not like them and so could easily be conspiring against all they hold dear. Needless to say it is difficult to reason with those suffering from this condition about the validity of knowledge that they see as contradicting their interpretation of the world. The longer these informed yet biased perspectives persist, the more deeply they are integrated into their owners’ self-image. This means that the longer a knowledge allergy goes untreated the more its victim will perceive external attempts to help as personal attacks. As such, it is unlikely that a cure could be facilitated through a straightforward rational intervention.

There is hope for those afflicted with this disease. Though their minds tend to be closed through self-justifying interpretations of what they already believe, they remain mentally active in their quest for new information to feed their addiction. Their willingness to expose themselves to new data keeps open the possibility that they will eventually encounter mind-expanding insights that lead them to question the foundation of the informational world view that emerged from their condition. Without knowledge to provide cohesion these informational perspectives are generally houses of cards that become flimsier the larger they grow. As a result, the product of this disease eventually becomes the best path to a cure.
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