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Is "useless knowledge" useless?

Posted to Gurteen Knowledge-Log by David Gurteen on 17 November 2016



Is "useless knowledge" useless?
WeblogGurteen Knowledge Log
Knowledge LetterAppears in the Gurteen Knowledge Letter issue: 197
Posted DateThursday 17 November 2016 13:08 GMT
Posted ByDavid Gurteen
PeopleBertrand Russell

Is "useless knowledge" useless?

A strange sort of question don't you think?

But this is what the British philosopher Bertrand Russell has to say in a little book of essays titled Let the People Think.

"Perhaps the most important advantage of 'useless' knowledge is that it promotes a contemplative habit of mind."

And he tells this short story
Curious learning not only makes unpleasant things less pleasant, but also makes pleasant things more pleasant. I have enjoyed peaches and apricots more since I have known that they were first cultivated in China in the early days of the Han dynasty; that Chinese hostages held by the great King Kanisaka introduced them into India, whence they spread to Persia, reaching the Roman Empire in the first century of our era; that the word "apricot" is derived from the same Latin source as the word "precocious" because the apricot ripens early; and that the A as the beginning was added by mistake, owing to a false etymology. All this makes the fruit taste much sweeter.

Yes, at one level it is useless knowledge, you can do little with it but as he says it makes the apricot taste that much sweeter. Does it do that for you? It does for me.

So is it so useless? Stopping, thinking, reflecting and contemplating about the world and enjoying or being disgusted with its flavours can rarely be a waste of time.

If you are interested in Knowledge Management, the Knowledge Café or the role of conversation in organizational life then you my be interested in this online book I am writing on Conversational Leadership
David Gurteen

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