Knowledge: The psychological result of perception and learning and reasoning. In this age of the Internet, knowledge is abundant and freely accessible to anyone with a computer and within walking distance of a Starbucks outlet (or, well, any available wireless hotspot really). Log in, type a key word into Google, and be amazed by terabytes upon terabytes of information about almost anything under the sun. Text, diagrams, pictures, videos, animations, even 3D animations are all becoming more readily available to consumers worldwide, and this has greatly influenced the way we lead our lives today.
What most people don’t realize, however, is how powerful we become when we’re in possession of this knowledge.
Scientia Potentia Est – Knowledge is Power
‘Scientia Potentia Est‘ is a Latin maxim meaning “knowledge is power”. It is commonly attributed to Sir Francis Bacon, though there is no known occurrence of this precise phrase in Bacon’s English or Latin writings.
I was introduced to this phrase when I was playing the video game Warhammer 40000: Dawn of War, where the Blood Ravens Space Marine Chapter have adopted this maxim as their motto. I really liked it, and I spent much time pondering about what exactly does this three words mean. In the game, the Blood Ravens, unlike their fellow Space Marine brothers from other chapters, spend as much time in their scholarly pursuits as they spend dispensing the Emperor’s justice. Their inquisitive nature brings them to exploring many unknowns and collecting information which will benefit the Chapter and the Imperium of Man. This exploration sometimes brings them close to dangerous knowledge which, in the wrong hands, would cause much devastation and suffering e.g. heresy to the Emperor of Man.
The Double-Edged Sword
Knowledge itself is a neutral being. It’s is pure information: objective, and without favor. As such, its the application by the user that brings about the good and evil we witness in the world today. The invention of fire is a double-edged sword; it brought warmth to households and cooked food to our table, but it also brought much destruction throughout the ages and damage to property. The discovery of nuclear fission ushered in a new age of nuclear energy, but it also brought with it the invention of the devastating nuclear bomb. The creation of lasers has brought about a variety of interesting applications in physics and engineering, but has also provided us with the tools to build advanced weaponry to aim at our enemies. Indeed, knowledge gives us much power: Power to create, and power to destroy
Power to the Man who wields the Sword
Since knowledge grants the user with immense power, we come to realize that this power is indeed dangerous in the hands of men who know how to wield it. Take Wikileaks for instance. Because of the ingenuity of a couple of hackers, some of the world’s most sensitive information became accessible on the web. Some of this information is so sensitive that it can cause unrest in many places and create unnecessary instability. Knowledge – particularly false knowledge – can also create paranoia and panic amongst the public. For example, during the recent Fukushima nuclear disaster, the Japanese government censored some of the radiation readings in Fukushima prefecture, as well as nearby areas, because although transparency would have been good for the people, it may also cause unnecessary instability when people overreact to the news (e.g. increased nuclear radiation levels, but isn’t significant enough to cause health impacts). How ironic, that knowledge becomes even more dangerous to those who do NOT know how to wield it.
Guard it Well
It comes to no surprise then, why the Blood Ravens complete their motto with the phrase ‘guard it well’. Knowledge harbours great potential, and in the right (or wrong) hands, can be exploited. Hence, we should always pay extra careful attention to guard sensitive information, especially if we realize this information can be used to give your opponent the edge over you in the competition. In contrast, it will do you well to be able to obtain information from your competitors, so that you can stay ahead in the game and outmaneuver your enemies.
And perhaps it is because of this fact, that it is so hard to trust people we meet. The more we trust someone, the more knowledge we entrust in him or her, and the more power we give him or her to turn against us when we have our backs turned.
Knowledge is Power. Guard it Well.