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IIT Guwahati
Research Scholar Forum, EEE   |     March, 2018     |   Issue: 3     |     Download PDF  
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The Greatest Enemy of Knowledge is not Ignorance, It is the Illusion of Knowledge (Stephen Hawking)

The world would have been a real better place to live in had the development of a country been measured in terms of intangible possessions like knowledge, peace, renewable resources, etc. However, unfortunately, the world believes more in power, might and strength. Nuclear ammunitions, armed forces, victories in wars have become the benchmark to determine how powerful a nation is. Knowledge features nowhere in the list. The significance of knowledge can be estimated from the fact that every year we hear of Nobel Prizes being won, scientists making groundbreaking discoveries in the field of medicine or science and technology, but, we never hear that a "unit" to measure knowledge has been discovered. Why? The reason is - knowledge is so vast and unfathomable, that it is immeasurable.

Knowledge is an abstract entity which can be thought of as possessing ideas, concepts and understanding by human being, related to various walks of life, gained through education or experience. Schools and colleges often have the line "knowledge is virtue" in their school emblem, which indicates how pious knowledge is, as the places of learning are considered to be the home of sanctity. Knowledge can also be viewed as a process, which we undergo right from our birth till our death-bed. We continuously keep learning one thing or the other, something good or bad. As William Shakespeare very well points out in his poem "The Seven Ages" about the seven stages of human lives, we tend to learn different things in each stage. In the infant stage, we learn to suckle either voluntarily or involuntarily; as we grow up to the toddler stage, we learn to walk and call names; then, as a school-goer we learn education and moral values; as a youth, we learn how to tackle hardships in life; next, as a man, we learn handling family and children; moving to the old age, we look back at our life and learn from our mistakes and, then, finally die. Just as a rolling stone gathers no moss, a person who keeps gaining knowledge throughout will be wise and lead a happy life.

As every coin has two sides, with knowledge comes ignorance. But, 'ignorance' is good. An ignorant person who is willing to learn is infinite times better than a person who is ignorant but, pretends to know either knowingly or unknowingly. With enormous amount of information flow happening around us in today's time, a misconception has got into the heads of the people – "I know a lot". A major share of people actually does not know, but, are in the illusion of knowing it. Just as a doctor doesn't get to know of what an operation is, until he operates upon; an engineer needs to apply his theoretical knowledge to construct a bridge by doing so. Talking about the religious pundits, they should be preaching that 'humanity' is our only religion and, love, the only language. But, the scenario in India is in total disagreement with it. Idols and statues are fed with tasty edibles and milk whereas many people are dying out of hunger and starvation. Terrorists are beheading people as if they are chopping off vegetables. And some priests are in the pursuit of proving the supremacy of their religion by converting the people of other religion to theirs.

We live in an era of science and technology where information travels at the rate of Gigabytes per second, satellites are covering nook and corner of the globe 24 X 7, medical science is coming out with drugs for incurable diseases, locomotion over thousands of kilometers takes place in hours, prediction about weather 10 days hence can be made today, robots with better accuracy than humans are performing surgeries. On the flip side, due to incomplete understanding of science and technology, human race has been crippled. Artificial air soothes more than fresh air. People prefer to hop on to a locomotive for even a 100 meters distance, rather than walking. Personal Computers are no more a 'computing device'; it has become an 'entertainment device'. Parents are killing a girl child in the womb by detecting its gender using ultrasonography. More toxic substances have been manufactured contributing to drug abuse.

Thus, improper and incomplete understanding of science and technology has led to mankind getting drifted away from nature and reduction in life expectancy of the humans. Our country India is considered to be a 'developing' one and a proof of it is its growing GDP every year. However, cross-border terrorism, droughts, floods, insurgency, illegal immigrants are a few causes of disharmony. Moreover, murders, bomb-blasts, rape, domestic violence, dowry, etc. form a major share of the electronic and print media. Corruption has been spreading its tentacles and has touched upon politicians, bureaucrats, bankers, industrialists, and even the education system. Figuring out the country's repute by merely relying on facts and figures will be an illusion; rather, problems need to be tackled at the grass root level for the nation to become a 'developed' one.

Zeroing in from the outside world and the society to myself, an it-happened-to-me incident awaits to be narrated. An English teacher of mine always advised me to study the subject 'seriously' as he knew that I took the subject casually out of overconfidence. His words of wisdom were- "Accept that you do not know, and, then, you will learn". However, I refused to heed to his advice and paid the price by never scoring a distinction in the subject till today. It goes on to prove that I always had an illusion that I knew the subject, but, I actually did not. In general, it is very important to accept that "I do not know" and have an urge to learn whatever is eluding the person.

Note: This topic was given by Heartfulness Institute for All India Essay Event 2017. He has given this writeup for event and won third price at state level. ( heartfulness.org )

Birjit Singha
VLSI, EEE Department
Email: birjit@iitg.ernet.in
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