Anti-Knowledge Cultures and the Internet

Posted on 10/12/10 4 Comments

Having visited over 40 countries in my fortunate life, and lived and worked in three very different cultures, the US, Saudi Arabi and Thailand, I have noticed a bit of sadness creeping into my life about what I would call “anti-knowledge cultures”.    Next spring, if all goes according to plan, I’ll be in Tokyo for most of 2011, so I thought now was a good time to reflect on a few things I have learned and observed in my last three years abroad as a US expat worker.

First of all, I don’t find myself so happy, even thought I have realized my goal and dream of working in a foreign country in SE Asia.   One key reason is that I find “anti-knowledge” cultures really quite depressing, unless you are willing to just enjoy being a tourist and you shut your mind to all the mind-control and message manipulation that goes on in anti-knowledge cultures.

So, what is an “anti-knowledge culture” ?

Admittedly, I am writing this “from the hip” and intentionally not doing any research or Google searches before typing today; so I look forward to reading if my thoughts match any other person’s thoughts or ideas on this topic.  I am guessing that the term “anti-knowledge culture” already exists, but I really am going into this blindly at this point, so please bare with me as I climb out on a limb.

I’m defining this “on the fly, version 0.1″.

A “anti-knowledge culture” is a cultural system, often associated with a national identity, that has a core social-engine based on the suppression of knowledge so the “power groups” (most often the social and economic elites) can maintain the status-quo and, therefore, their social and economic and power base.

Anti-knowledge behavior occurs in myriad ways in most societies and nations.  However, in some societies “anti-knowledge” dominates knowledge, and the degree of domination defines the threshold, or some tipping point, that could label a society, group or nation as “anti-knowledge culture”.

For example, I have noticed that in some nations I have lived, we easily see:

  • Strict media control by the government and the underlying elite.
  • Criminalization of critical thinking and speech.
  • An economic system based on taking advantage of the lack of local knowledge of another (for example a tourist).
  • Brainwashing and mind control based on emotional belief systems, such as nationality or race, that promote unity and single-minded thinking and creating “outcasts” of those who challenge the system.
  • False democratic values that only permit “democracy” as long as the people don’t actually try to change the system in a way that threatens the powerful elite that control the society.
  • Failure to embrace change (or modernize) by “educating” citizens to worship legacy artifacts, such as art, history, language, and other fantasies from images of the national or social past.

This type of anti-knowledge culture seems to dominate many societies.   So much so, that I often find it depressing to see the minds of so many humans literally walking around as a type of victim of life long brainwashing.   In some societies, this type of anti-knowledge dominates the entire social fabric.

Will the Internet accelerate change in “anti-knowledge cultures” toward being “knowledge cultures”?

Or, it is possible that the Internet will be used to further effect anti-knowledge mind control?

Let’s explore these topics in a future post.

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4 Comments

  1. Ben says:
    Thursday, October 21, 2010 at 9:24pm

    Hi Tim,

    Sometimes anti-knowledge is self imposed.

    Seth captures it well:
    http://sethgodin.typepad.com/seths_blog/2010/10/deliberately-uninformed-relentlessly-so.html

  2. Amit Kumar says:
    Saturday, October 23, 2010 at 1:53pm

    I am from India. I ran a thought experiment of which of the above points in your list apply to India, and the answer is none. So is India an anti-knowledge culture? Certainly no. But assuredly it is not a happy democracy. I understand the primary reason for this is a general lack of a social outlook of the people — everybody is concerned about the well-being of themselves and their own family. This is where their horizon of knowledge and openness stops — at the end of their family. To me this explains widespread corruption, ever-increasing inequality between the economic classes, and lack of enthusiasm for knowledge.

  3. JJ says:
    Wednesday, October 27, 2010 at 4:47pm

    I see that too; it’s sad.
    You can see a strong correlation between religion and anti-knowledge cultures.

    The less knowledge people have, the more they end up with religious believes, and vice versa.

    The last century has brought huge amounts of knowledge and discovery, but some people still live like it’s the middle ages and the world is flat.

    Sad.

  4. roland de boo says:
    Thursday, November 4, 2010 at 4:09pm

    Hi Tim, a nice read on this topic is ‘The Wealth and Poverty of Nations’ by David Landes. He claims the difference in economic progress between societies is mainly cultural (not geography, natural resources, climate, etc).

    Apparently China at some point had the most advanced technology, like very large ships. But the government decided that their society was already perfect and that there was no need to explore and discover. They made this very concrete – to sail out on the sea became forbidden, as was building large ships. All this to prevent discovery of new things.