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Is there knowledge we should not seek? Or is all knowledge inherently a good thing, and can only persons be harmful?

by Charlie Ma

         Knowledge is an experience, or the understanding of a concept achieved through studying, whether formal such as in a designated school or informal. The concept must be generally acceptable as truthful. "Cars do not need fuel" or "hemlock improves the human immune system" are not knowledge since most people knowledgeable in respect to cars or hemlock will agree the statements are false. Statements intended to be deceptive are not knowledge since the data are purposely false. Studying geography in school, reading the ingredients on food products, or listening to the local weather station on the radio is knowledge.

         All knowledge can be used to help mankind, as well as to harm it. Even knowledge intended for good can be used to harm. Even though the study biology was intended to be beneficial to mankind, it is not always the case. An understanding of bacteria and viruses are applied in numerous ways. It is sometimes used to help the sick through the creation vaccines and medicine to cure the illness. It is also used to harm through the creation biological weapons designed to infect victims with deadly diseases. Similarly, knowledge intended for harm can be used to used for benefit of mankind as well. Understanding of nuclear fission originally led to production of weapons of mass destruction. Destruction was its sole purpose initially. Its concepts were later applied to power plants which supply civilians with electricity. A mathematical proof could further develop math as a discipline, as will as speed calculations. The calculations can make corporations more efficient and lower the cost for consumers. The calculations can also enhance the accuracy of smart bombs, making destruction more efficient. Even military research have civil applications. Knowledge of historical events can enlighten people by expanding their minds. Roman history for example, influences many aspects of daily life, such as art. Roman history can also be used in war propaganda. At the peak of Roman power, the empire stretched from Britain to North Africa to the Persian Gulf. During World War II, Hitler proclaimed Germany’s destiny to rule over Eurasia as the Romans did centuries ago. He declared it was Germany’s rightful destiny to conquer, a justification for war.

         Whether or not knowledge will be used for good or harmful purposes are not dependent upon the categories the knowledge falls in, such as the system of knowledge, the knowledge type, or its nature. The uses are dependent upon the people in control of the knowledge. Since all knowledge has the potential to help mankind, or to hurt it, only people can decide which uses dominate. All knowledge regardless of category has equal potential to benefit mankind, or harm it. Whether or not mankind is benefits or suffers is dependent upon the people with the knowledge, and people with power over them. Explosives were originally used for entertainment by the Chinese as fireworks. European nations tend to be more aggressive militarily, such as in colonizing large parts of the globe with force. The hostility is reflected in its application of the same knowledge, in firearms. More civil minded uses of explosives include rock mining or clearing mountains to build roads. Knowledge normally associated with harmful applications reflects the nature of the people, not the knowledge.

         Since all knowledge can have the potential to be both beneficial or harmful, there is no category of knowledge which should be avoided because of its association with harm. There is no knowledge which we should not seek, since knowledge is neutral. Some people disagree however. They are avidly against the availability of all knowledge, to everyone. One example is the various information available to the public on the Internet. There are virtually more recipes to make pipe bombs than there are to make apple pie. The accessibility of dangerous information worries civilians and governments. They fear someone who has not yet developed a respect for others will discover certain knowledge, and use it maliciously. When one person or even a billion reads the texts and discovers how to build a pipe bomb, what changes? Is someone instantly injured by this act? Nobody suffers from the accumulation of knowledge whether it is he who gains the knowledge or someone else.

         Suppose someone is curios enough to build the bomb. This act is simply acquisition of further knowledge. No one has been harmed yet. Suppose he then uses the bomb to maliciously attack someone. The victim is harmed both physically and emotionally, not by knowledge, but by the malicious intentions of the person who built the bomb. Knowledge did not harm the victim, the person who used the bomb did. Knowledge has no will of its own, it is the people in control of the knowledge that dictates whether it is used for beneficial or harmful purposes.

         Suppose the bomb is accidentally set off, and the person is hurt. There were no malicious intent yet someone was harmed in the process. The accident was not caused by the knowledge itself, but the lack of knowledge. An expert bomb builder would not have made the mistakes which detonated the bomb. Knowledge can safeguard accidental detonations. For example, people will usually need to learn to drive, before being permitted to do so. In Canada, everyone first prove their knowledge of driving during a written exam before being allowed to physically learn to drive. This is not to protect people from knowledge of driving. It is to ensure they are not a threat to anyone else on the road. The knowledge is not dangerous, the lack of knowledge makes the people dangerous. Only the drivers can harm through their vehicle, not the knowledge.

         Suppose someone compiles a list of weapons of mass destruction. The compilation includes a method of assembly which allows the average person to easily build the weapon with minimum effort, requiring very basic materials which are easily attained. If this compilation is distributed to everyone, chaos would probably follow. There are many sociopaths and psychopaths who would cause mass destruction. If the compilation is hidden, and nobody gains the knowledge, there would not be chaos. Although there is a direct relation between knowledge and harm, the link is connected by people. Any damage would be caused by the harmful intentions of the person who compiled the list, and the harmful intentions of the person who utilized the compilation for mischief. Another person could easily use the data for beneficial purposes, such as crime prevention. The result of knowledge is dependent upon the person. Possessing knowledge itself does not harm anyone, nor benefit anyone. Knowledge from a harmful person can be passed to a good person without resulting in harm. The second person still has the choice of whether to use the knowledge for good or harmful purposes.

         Even though the risk of knowledge causing harm exists, it does not overcome the potential to benefit mankind. If nuclear research was abandoned because of the risk of a meltdown, then nuclear propulsion would be impossible. Knowledge is not a pandora’s box, it is directed by the people who use it. People control both new and old knowledge. Any new knowledge is no different than pre-existing knowledge. Each new concept or experience uncovered leads to a decision: good or harmful. Seeking new knowledge opens possibility for further harm, or further benefits. Since knowledge is neutral, good and harmful features of new knowledge should be similar to the proportional to the ratio of benefits to harmful features. If the ratio stays the same, then the amount of harm in respect to benefits (and vice versa) stays constant. The only difference is the amount of options available to do good, or harm. It is still the people who decides how to use knowledge.

         Only people can be harmful, knowledge itself cannot help anyone nor harm anyone. If someone is harmed, that is the result of a person. It is his will and harmful intent to harm the victim, not the will of knowledge. Since knowledge is neither good nor harmful, and whether the results of the knowledge will be beneficial or harmful is independent of any categories knowledge may lie within, there is no reason to avoid certain categories of knowledge. Every type of knowledge equally has the potential to enhance daily life, and that potential should be allowed to be exploited even at the cost of releasing harmful potentials. All systems of knowledge should be researched and taught because it does not harm, only people harm. Knowledge has will of its own.

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