Dance of The Madman

Why The Difference Between Knowledge and Belief Is Dividing The World

Tobias van Schneider on Unsplash

Recently, I find the three words many people (including me) find hard to utter are ‘I don’t know’. Although, I find there is a resurgence of a culture in society that appreciates a honest admittance of weaknesses, people still shy away from uttering these three words. I cannot help but wonder what the world would look like if we became hounds seeking knowledge instead of just relying on our pure beliefs. Think about the potential a scientific pursuit of knowledge would unleash. Of course, that means having to start with an empty slate devoid of our biases. Also, a scientific pursuit always leaves the door open for doubt. There is always a possibility that what we know could change in the light of new facts.

The Difference Between Intellect, Intelligence and Consciousness

As per Wikipedia, Intelligence has been defined in many ways, including: the capacity for logic, understanding, self-awareness, learning, emotional knowledge, reasoning, planning, creativity, and problem solving. More generally, it can be described as the ability to perceive or infer information, and to retain it as knowledge to be applied towards adaptive behaviors within an environment or context.

Intellect, is a branch of intelligence which deals with logic and facts. Intellect mainly reflects the part of intelligence that deals with rationality and logic mostly devoid of the emotional aspect. Therefore, intelligence includes intellect and much more. Intelligence includes emotions or the chemicals that race through your brain when you feel love, loss and excitement.

In simple terms, there is a reason why Artificial Intelligence (AI) is termed AI and not Artificial Consciousness because consciousness is a special gift that only Homo sapiens or humans as a specie possess. It is a higher state of awareness. In other words, humans are aware they are human but robots or AI aren’t aware they are a robot or a manufactured intelligence. If they were aware, they could revolt.

Consciousness is an incredibly complex thing to explain. There is an entire discipline dedicated to finding out what constitutes consciousness. However, one thing is clear : it is our higher level of awareness that allows us to follow a higher purpose or path to liberating our souls. The difference between being a sentient being and a robot allows us to follow a higher purpose. Our intelligence allows us to survive and thrive but we need our consciousness to realize our full potential as humans.

Ancient Yogic thought in India divides the human mind into 16 dimensions which can be categorized into 4 ie buddhi (intellect), ahankara (ego or a sense of a narrow identity), manas (memory which included evolutionary memory, data and biases collected over years) and finally chitta or intelligence unsullied by memory or a blank slate capable of joining humans to their consciousness. It is this chitta or intelligence unsullied by memory that can unleash our potential. Today, our intellect or buddhi is serving a narrow identity or our ego / ahankara which makes us divide ourselves into race, caste, creed or other man made divisions- a lot of it passed on by our manas or memory from our forefathers. We need an intelligence that is unbound to start working towards a higher purpose.

The Difference between Knowledge And Belief

A belief is a statement we assume to be true but which may or may not be true until proven scientifically. Knowledge, on the other hand, is a realization of facts.

The difference between knowing something ie the facts and believing is that believing something may or may not be factual. In that sense, we as humans can be led to believe anything including the paranormal because the nature of belief is that it may or may not be grounded in facts. In service of those beliefs, we can be extremely kind on one end and absolutely genocidal on the other.

Those beliefs include the biases spawned by some media outlets or some select pieces of news in a media outlet. However, to cast a generalized blanket by looking at some bad apples and saying that the entire media organization is biased is a very bad generalization. Again, it’s the difference between knowledge (facts) and Belief. So, before we slander any media outlet, public figure, we should get rid of our own biases and ground our statements in facts or knowledge not mere beliefs.

Of course, manipulation of public opinion by cherry picking data to fit narratives is nothing new. Many public figures, media outlets and sometimes we as individuals are also guilty of committing such a fallacy.

Every logical argument has a premise and a conclusion. The conclusion has to follow from the premise based on facts/truths and logical assumptions. Of course, there are many things beyond logic which lie in the realm of feelings. In philosophy and certain models of psychology, qualia are defined to be individual instances of subjective, conscious experience. The term qualia derives from the Latin neuter plural form (qualia) of the Latin adjective quālis meaning “of what sort” or “of what kind” in a specific instance like “what it is like to taste a specific apple, this particular apple now”.

The Dance Of The Madman

A wise man once said ‘god is in the details’ and yet we humans have shied away from going into the details of any issue. Let me give you a very simple example, many people pay fund managers 1% of their assets as asset management fees. There is nothing wrong with that because if you don’t have time to research stocks or bonds on your own, you would rather pay an asset manager. Now, 1% of $10,000 is $100 which many would say is not a big amount but they forget that $100 comes out of their pockets. If your assets keep growing over let’s say 50 years of your working life and you now pay 1% of $1 million, you can imagine the money the asset manager has made at your expense. For some, its a fair trade off. The point I am trying to make is that most people just look at 1% and base their decisions on that small percentage but they don’t go the extra mile and figure out that as their assets continue to grow, that 1% becomes an enormous dollar amount which comes out of their pocket.

Thus, personal finance, like many critical life choices, boils down to the details or going into the weeds as many may call it. If we are so eager to go into the details because it’s our money, why don’t we apply the same rigor to choosing the leaders of our community, company and ultimately our nation? One reason is that it is very hard for us to discern the truth because the media (which does rely on facts) can give us a version of the truth, the whole truth or in extreme cases a completely distorted version of the truth. So, we need to distinguish between belief and knowledge. Without it, anybody can make us believe in anything.

Why don’t we use facts to guide our debates instead of merely claiming we know everything and therefore debating on our belief systems instead of seeking answers.

We simply think we know everything there is to know about an issue. Based on those ‘beliefs’ which may or may not be true, we take very profound life altering decisions. In that sense, we become madmen. We have performed the same dance over and over again during our entire existence on this planet with the same result — wars, infighting, inequality, revolution and identity politics. This is the text book definition of an idiot-doing something over and over again with the same result — a stasis.

When we say ‘I don’t know’, we become ‘seekers’ of knowledge as opposed to merely ‘believing’ something to be true. We open ourselves to limitless possibilities by asking questions and gathering ‘knowledge’ not ‘beliefs’. People like Leonardo daVinci, Ben Franklin and millions of other geniuses were simply curios. They would look at the sky and ask why is it blue? They were seekers of knowledge.

The biggest travesty of being a human being today is that we are gifted with a consciousness that no living being or digital being (AI) can possess and yet we squander our gift by using our intelligence against our own species like a madman dancing on the street for millennia.

We wage wars, fight and oppress people just because we ‘believe’ something to be true but don’t ‘know’ the truth.

I pray that I become a seeker and my hope for all my readers is that they become ‘seekers’ of knowledge by admitting their own ignorance and base more of their decisions on knowledge instead of beliefs.

Again, I used the words ‘most of their decisions’ instead of ‘all of their decisions’ because it may be impossible to acquire all the knowledge in all scenarios. There may be times when you may not be able to get all the knowledge and you may want to rely on your belief / hunch. The most important thing is that you ‘try to seek’ knowledge in all cases. You may be surprised at how beautiful this world may become because of that attempt.

Writer @ The Intersection of Finance, Tech & Humanity. Stories of a Global Language: “Money”. Contributor @ Startup Grind, HackerNoon, HBR. Twitter@akothari_mba

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store