Knowledge – A means of destruction?

By Shivali Verma- The vast database of knowledge amassed from practically the beginning of our existence till today is perhaps our greatest feat. It’s a rather admirable collection of facts and figures that proves useful every time we invent or discover something new. Each time we put forth a theory, it is based on certain underlying principles – things we already know. Evidently, Knowledge is our most valuable asset, but it can also be an intimidating weapon. A weapon that can be used against ourselves too, depending on how we use the information at our disposal.

There is so much that has been created at the hands of humans using our knowledge that harms more than it helps. So many examples of our information being used in the wrong way. But the matter in question is this: we know that a nuclear bomb will kill thousands and leave deadly background radiation. We know that polythene bags, if not recycled, are non-biodegradable and pollute our environment. Then why, knowing the ill effects, are we creating such things that will eventually be catastrophic for us? The race for survival is already such a cumbersome process, why would we intentionally make it any harder for ourselves by inventing such things?

My answer to this question is the following.

Every leap humankind has made through history has always been accompanied by its own problems. With advancement, comes a tradeoff. We gain something and take a step forward but also lose something and take a step back. For example, the Industrial Revolution meant the beginning of machine usage and development of technology and transport systems. But it also brought a drastic population explosion, increased child labour and widespread epidemics. To take a far simpler example – locomotives. With the invention of fuel driven locomotives, we found a convenient means of transport that took less manual energy, but resulted in using precious fossil fuels and polluting the air. In other words, it is impossible to create something that has only a positive effect. Even though we know this, we try to invent new things and progress, hoping that in the big picture, the benefits we reap of an advancement outshine its disadvantages. However, whether the pros of something overpower its cons is largely a personal opinion and is swayed by the viewer’s private interests. And so when one person’s (or one species’) idea of ‘profitable’ contradicts the truth of whether it really will be in the long run, our knowledge becomes a weapon as we use it to create something detrimental for ourselves – as is the case with the story of our dear old plastic bag!

With our knowledge behind us, we have built iron and concrete mountains, unimaginable contraptions, foraged our way through forests, fought diseases, waged wars and unraveled some of the deepest mysteries of our universe. Knowledge really is power. But until we become far-sighted, until we account for the possibly crippling consequences that come with a new advancement and learn how to cope with it, we will continue to use our knowledge as a weapon against our own survival as we create disastrous things. Until we fix this fatal flaw we have, we stand at the bow of a ship headed towards calamity. We must change the way we evaluate a situation, act maturely and learn to think ahead of what is currently the norm if we wish to keep our information in the form of a boon instead of a bane. And this is imperative, because without our knowledge, we are nothing.

Shivali Verma

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