Knowledge at the Cost of Imagination: the trade-off brought to us by Google

In a world where you can Google anything, there’s more access to information than at any point in history.

Democratization of knowledge is, in most respects, a great thing.

But, like with anything else, there’s a price.

I’ve written extensively about one price: distractions and interruptions from the short term world.

But in this post, I want to discuss another price: loss of imagination.

A few weeks ago, I went hiking:

(Nope, I didn't take this picture. Wish I did.)

(Nope, I didn't take this picture. Wish I did.)

While hiking, I came across three phrases on a dedication to a historic figure I’d never heard of:

  • Ample Knowledge
  • Intelligent Perseverance
  • Eloquent Teaching

I jotted them down with every intention of Googling them later.

Then, as I continued to hike, I considered what I would’ve done pre-Google. I doubt I would’ve gone to the library and looked into it or asked my history teacher. If anything, I would’ve made up the meanings.

So I decided to do just that.

To me, this experiment is more valuable than the tidbit of history Google would’ve provided. I willingly sacrifice it.

Here’s what I came up with:

Ample Knowledge: Targeted curiosity about the world around you. Self-awareness. Knowing you don’t know enough and seeking to fill those gaps, in regards to both knowledge of self and knowledge of world.

Intelligent Perseverance: Pragmatism in a principled direction. The direction, and the choice of actions, are subject to careful reflection, learning-by-doing, and possible revision based on experience.

Eloquent Teaching: Taking your knowledge and putting it out into the world in some valuable form. If it dies with us, what’s the point? We all have something to offer and we owe it to ourselves, and the world, to put it out there, and to do so effectively.

These definitions work together fairly well. Ample Knowledge provides the reflection and experience needed for Intelligent Perseverance. And both of those are necessary for Eloquent Teaching to be possible.

As I write these words, I fight the temptation to Google the true meanings of the three phrases. But I’m not going to.



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