Knowledge Is Power: True or False?

There is a statement that I lived by growing up: Knowledge is power . I still think about this today. However, I sometimes wonder if this is even true anymore; or if it is, does it apply in a totally different way or have a totally different meaning compared to years gone by?

I think if there is someone who can teach you something that no one else can — and you can't find the information anywhere else — then that teacher has a great power. He or she possesses something that no one else has. People will always go to that person for advice and a piece of knowledge. Typically, those who possessed a certain level of knowledge or performed a special skill were highly respected. They were looked up to and many people trusted and relied on them and learned from them.

However, I am not sure if our society (or world for that matter) has that one person (at work or in personal lives) who we consider the possessor of high knowledge. There doesn't seem to be that one person that we go to in order to learn or gain from. It seems knowledge does not really lead to power anymore, but just helps you get what you need done at that particular point in time. What does “power” really mean? Does it mean one who leads many others in a certain field? Is it a piece of information? Or is it much simpler? Does having knowledge just mean we have an ability to use what we know to finish a certain design or project?

With today's technology and with just about every piece of information at our fingertips with Google, YouTube, Wikipedia, and many other sources, we can learn pretty much whatever we need. Everyone is at an almost equal advantage in their ability to access information and to learn. So does anyone ever have any power over another with the knowledge they possess?

I think that way back in the day, we considered that many individuals had great power with the knowledge they had. But I think today, great knowledge comes from teams and design groups and communities. These groups can improve each other's strengths and weaknesses, learn from each other, and gain more power as a group. This is the “two heads are better than one” approach to engineering and knowledge gathering.

So I guess if “knowledge is power,” then what is power and what does this power do for us or help us gain?

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35 comments on “Knowledge Is Power: True or False?

  1. Pho99
    November 4, 2013

    Maybe the ability to learn new knowlege rapidly — they say the amount of new information on things doubles in less than a few years globally

  2. Scott Elder
    November 4, 2013

    If the definition of Knowledge is information or data, then I think most people would agree with your thesis.  Think of the industries such as travel that have essentially disappeared because their industry was based entirely upon controlled access to information (airline fares and schedules).  I suspect first-line medicine will change dramatically in the coming years because it is based primarily upon memorization of statistical data (i.e. these symptoms = most likely this problem/medicine).

     But if the definition of Knowledge is creative expertise, then I would disagree.  Consider the design of an analog IC.  The only tool available to verify an integrated design is SPICE.  There is no opportunity to breadboard a 10,000 component design.  But the biggest complaint users have about SPICE is it only answers questions you ask (i.e. What is the voltage on this node?).  That is where expertise comes into play; knowing which questions to ask.
    Sending out a design to the factory, spending $1,000,000 on a mask set, and waiting 6 weeks for prototypes, is not the way to learn which questions weren't asked.  That's a way to lose your job.  Likewise, when there is a patient on a table in surgery, bleeding to death from a medical complication, that is no time to be hopping on the internet for knowledge.
    In the end, it comes down to money and time.  If there is time to learn and money to spend learning, then the internet can be a useful tool.  But successful businesses (and surgeons in an operating room) don't have the time to learn.  They will go out of business or their patients will die–or both. 
    The only time a business has time and money to learn is if they are doing funded research.  And research is based upon creating new solutions to problems.  Not looking up the solution on the internet.
  3. Davidled
    November 4, 2013


    Generally Speaking, owner of company hires the person who has the ability to enjoying what they are, has the ability to extend the knowledge of the current technology, and has the ability to transform this knowledge to the product.  

  4. samicksha
    November 5, 2013

    I agree you Daej, but from prospect company looks for candidate with good hands on experiance on his/her domain and fair overview on other related or parented domains.

  5. eafpres
    November 6, 2013

    I had the same thought as Pho99 that ability to learn is very powerful now that access to information and even learning (like MOOCs) is becoming more ubiquitious, at least if you are connected.

    However, as others subsequently pointed out, you need time to learn.  So the fastter someone can learn, the less time they need to get to knowledge power parity (KPP).

    Another saying I heard a lot while growing up, or perhaps more during my higher education years, was that “time is money”.  Money, or earning, is certainly a form of power, or can be be used to barter for power.  Since learning takes time, there is a direct relationship of the cost of learning, in time, offset by a gain in power.

    If we focus on, say, analog design, then in principle anyone starting from scratch could design a circuit.  There are likely diagrams and BOMs available on the internet for many applications.  But without real knowledge, you won't know which is best for an application, and which might not even work.  Skipping learning and experience by jumping to following an internet recipe can lead to disaster.

    Would you want to fly on an airplane if all the power systems were designed by bright high school kids who read how to do it on the internet?

  6. Netcrawl
    November 6, 2013

    Experience is still the best learning tool, it exposes engineers to real time environment, one which could help them transform into real problem solver, provide them with great knowledge that can be used in today's complex environment.  

  7. Netcrawl
    November 6, 2013

    Its true fast learner is a good characteristic, this makes them much more competitive and its a great davantega for today's environment.

    We're living in a highly complex, fast-evolving environment with some new rules, being able to learn new knowledge is critical in today's competition. Fresh knowledge is key in creating new product lines or developing new technology or even distrupting the whole industry.

  8. RedDerek
    November 6, 2013

    Another way to look at it is as follows. If one learns a lot (kowledge), and then works hard to recall and assemble the information to solve a particular problem, heat is generated by the thinking process. Heat is power. So as they generate heat, they then loose power by dissipation. Now one can then simply use an IR camera to look at one's head while they solve a problem. The hotter head prevails and is the most knowldegable! Hence, the more knowledge you have, the hotter head one works with. So if one is labeled as a “hot-head”, are they more knowledgable than those around?

    (This is tounge-in-cheek view.)

  9. samicksha
    November 7, 2013

    You are right netcrawl, i learned this during my degree program in India where we had much of books to read but with very limited practical, obviously books are cheaper than machines, which made us learn lot of theory but had to wait for understanding and implementing.

  10. Vishal Prajapati
    November 7, 2013

    @samicksha, I agree with you. Even today engineering fresh grads are not very favourite amonst employers. They prefer 1 or 2 years experienced persons for that reason only. The practical aspect in the engineering is most important, which is not very much available here in India. Some how universities are reluctant to implement more practical classes and assignments.

  11. samicksha
    November 8, 2013

    You are right Vishal, companies have eventually changed their startegies with evolving buisiness, they dont want to spend huge amount on training fresh grads, rather they always have option to hire some x exp guy….

  12. BVR_#2
    November 9, 2013

    In today's google world, probably knowledge may be defined as knowing what to ask and where/whom to ask.  Knowledge may be knowing how to select keywords to get right information from the vast knowledge available.  Knowledge may be sifting out the trash from the mined information.

    Your memory should serve as a cache and an index for the information needed.  As a cache to store knowledge which doesn't allow delay in accessing and as an index for reference you can always refer to.

  13. PCR
    November 9, 2013

    Pho99 I strongly agree with you on this, there is nothing that can't be learn thanks to the internet. Any of the information is in the finger tips. But there will be a issues in terms of application of those knowledge to a practical life.  

  14. PCR
    November 9, 2013

    Daej Yes its true, I also believe that there will be a more demand for the people who has proven them self than the person who has lot of paper qualification in hand. 

  15. PCR
    November 9, 2013

    Daej Yes its true, I also believe that there will be a more demand for the people who has proven them self than the person who has lot of paper qualification in hand. 

  16. PCR
    November 9, 2013

    Visal I believe that there should be enough time for do the practical on what they have learnt. Otherwise they will try those things in first time in the real world.

  17. PCR
    November 9, 2013

    Samicksha, from the point of organization view they are right, cause that end of the day profit is matter than the others in business.

  18. etnapowers
    November 11, 2013

    ” if there is someone who can teach you something that no one else can … “

    … He's got the power and this teacher is really valuable, because experience has no price , and you can find no other source of that particular knowledge. Another important point is what part of his knowledge the teacher will decide to communicate, it depends on the situation I mean.


  19. etnapowers
    November 11, 2013

    A good teacher who has a special knowledge that nobody else can teach, has to be effective in communicating the information to a person. The effectiveness of the communication is very important in the process of knowledge sharing.

  20. Vishal Prajapati
    November 11, 2013

    @Ranasinghe, Believe me I did the same thing. When I joined my first job I learned how to write a C program for Microcontroller. Even I designed my first circuit of H-Bridge to be controlled by Microcontroller only after diploma in EC. Before that I would just take some ready made circuit from Internet and start making it. And I am considering my self lucky that I got to do work on the microcontroller directly after academics. Generally industries give very little chance to learn new things after studies.

  21. PCR
    November 11, 2013

    Vishal A lease you are luckily, normally originations need to have a results rather than tryouts.

    Congratulations to you………..

  22. PCR
    November 11, 2013

    “Because experience has no price” Do not agree with you etnapowers at all


    I believe that experiences will sharpening the knowledge each and every day.

  23. PCR
    November 11, 2013

    True etnapowers, not everyone can teach it's a very special skill. 

  24. etnapowers
    November 12, 2013

    This is true Ranasinghe , I think that experience grows day by day, I was referring to the finalized process of experiencing a particular aspect of knowledge, after you got the experience then you have the power, despite you cannot never say to know everything !

  25. etnapowers
    November 12, 2013

    Agree Ranasinghe, and this skill is deeply correlated to the power of knowledge: only a good teacher can teach effectively a good thing. 

  26. samicksha
    November 13, 2013

    @ranasinghe: I hope i understood you right, it not only with prospect to organization, actually it is vice versa, we work hard/smart but at the end of the day what matters is salary …lol…but i guess it is true.

  27. PCR
    November 14, 2013

    Yes Knowledge without knowing how to use it is like having book written by unknown language. 

    Knowledge + Experience = Power

  28. PCR
    November 14, 2013

    Yes Samicksha We may say that “enjoy the work that we do” but no one will work without a pay and only for fun for sure. 

  29. etnapowers
    November 15, 2013

    @Ranasinghe: I agree on your point, I want to add that when you enjoy your work you can enhance your knowledge and add value to your work and your CV , and you can aspire to a better position then you'll be paid better … hopely

  30. PCR
    November 16, 2013

    True etnapowers, enjoying a job is not an easy thing; I believe that selecting education should be based on the personnel likings which will lead to select a job that can be enjoy by doing.

  31. etnapowers
    November 17, 2013

    Yes Ranasinghe, to confirm your opinion I noticed that all the educational choices related with a specific path are successful stories. The student who chooses to do a stage in a company of a specific field he likes , in most cases will be a engaged and enthusiastic worker in that field .

  32. yalanand
    November 30, 2013

    I truly believe knowledge is power and the best way to utilise this knowledge is by sharing it with others. We are also very lucky because we have new meidums like social media through which we can share and acquire knowledge.

  33. SunitaT
    November 30, 2013

     I believe that selecting education should be based on the personnel likings which will lead to select a job that can be enjoy by doing.

    @Ranasinghe, I totally agree with you on this. But sometimes we dont enjoy the job even though we are working in the field we would want to because we dont like the nature of work.

  34. SunitaT
    November 30, 2013

    We may say that “enjoy the work that we do” but no one will work without a pay and only for fun for sure. 

    @Ranasinghe, sometimes people sacrifice on their salary because they dont want to change their jobs and would want to continue in the same domain. So we should care about pay and salary but that shouldn't be given the first priority.

  35. SunitaT
    November 30, 2013

    not everyone can teach it's a very special skill.

    @Ranasinghe, not everyone can become great teacher. I think those who have worked extensively in the field can teach better than those who dont have any experience in the field.

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