If Knowledge Were Simpler We Would All Be Wiser

34 Pages Posted: 27 Sep 2021 Last revised: 8 Nov 2023

Date Written: October 23, 2023


A lot of academic knowledge (the sort of expertise that people go to academic institutions to learn about) is complicated and may require considerable time, effort, and expert help to master. University courses, textbooks, and, more recently AI tools like ChatGPT, can help to tackle this problem. However, sometimes another approach may be possible: simplifying academic knowledge so that it is easier to learn, understand and use, without sacrificing its power and usefulness. There are many historical examples of such simplifications, such as the replacement of Roman numerals with the decimal system, and many scientific laws which replace a myriad of disconnected observations with relatively simple general principles. This article explores the idea of simplification of knowledge, how this might apply to current knowledge, and the possibilities this opens up for the future. The benefits, in terms of saving time and enhancement of the power and accessibility of academic knowledge, are potentially enormous. Specialists could reach the frontiers of their discipline quicker and have more time to advance their knowledge. They might also be able to make more, and better, use of other disciplines. Students would need less time for their studies. If we don't start to simplify our increasingly complicated web of knowledge, human progress will slow down or cease as our minds become clogged with unnecessary technicalities, and inevitable over-simplifications take control of our thoughts and actions. We need to see the design of elegant, fit-for-purpose, perspectives which help us to make wise judgments as an important task for academia. Then perhaps 10-year-olds will be able to understand quantum mechanics, and the leading edge of science will be beyond anything we can imagine now.

Keywords: Academic knowledge, Growth of knowledge, Public understanding of science, Simplicity, Simplifying knowledge.

Suggested Citation

Wood, Michael, If Knowledge Were Simpler We Would All Be Wiser (October 23, 2023). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3911835 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3911835

Michael Wood (Contact Author)

University of Portsmouth ( email )

United Kingdom

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