My World: A Personal Blog About Everything

Friday, April 18, 2008

GRE Practice 1

I'm practicing for the GRE test, which I'm taking June 7th, here is my first practice attempt on an "issue" task. Issue: "As we acquire more knowledge, things do not become more comprehensible, but more complex and more mysterious." There is ambiguity in the phrasing of this issue in what is meant by "things", leading to drastically different points of view. I will explore different meanings of "things" and how that can drastically change the way we look at the issue. Taking "things" to be ways of solving tangible problems, then without a doubt more knowledge makes things more comprehensible.   For example, dramatic discoveries have been, and continue to be made, regarding computer processors.   Now this example doesn't only have effects on computing, each discovery leads to a stronger and clearer picture of what control we, as humans, can have on the atomic level.   One after another, scientists build on the work of their peers and add a very small, very precise piece of knowledge to that pot.   The result is more efficient, faster, higher performance computers, which in general will benefit humanity as a whole.   Of course certain discoveries will raise more questions or open new directions for further improvement, but taken as a whole this is a perfect example of how as we acquire more knowledge we are building a clearer and clearer model of the environment we live in.     In other words, we are buildign a model than can more accurately predict our surroundings. On the other hand taking "things" as being everyday, commonly accepted truths then I feel strongly that acquiring more and more knowledge simply makes things more complex and mysterious.   I am referring to this idea as the "stock market syndrome".   So in the stock market knowledge about the state of a company, the state of an economy, and infinite other factors, can help someone predict to a certain degrees the direction of stock prices.   This is why firms dedicated to investing will consistently make more money than the little guy. The issue is that this is a feedback system, where once more and more people begin to believe a certain trend the trend will change!   Simply by following everyone in certain direction you are changing the system itself and things become chaotic and confusing where you need to study even harder to try to get back the "accurate" picture you thought you had.   The knowledge you had that allowed you to predict or hypothesize in the past no longer helps to predict in the future. So now to bring this all together, we need to talk about knowledge.   The philosophers define knowledge fairly clearly but that's not useful for the average person.   For the average person knowledge is just an observation of a particular situation which is applicable in predicting the outcome of another situation.   I've presented two cases, computer processors and the stock market, where we can see how accmulating knowledge can either create a clearer model or can open the door to a chaotic model.   We've seen that knowledge can lead to a better way of predicting the basic behaviour of the world and on the other hand creates confusion where one might say the knowledge about past situations is no longer even applicable to future situations. -Michael

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