Knowledge Production VS Knowledge Creation – Which One to Value More?

Content Raj - Plato - Knowledge Production or Creation?

Knowledge comprises of facts, information, and skills that are acquired via. education or experience, either of which leads to the theoretical or practical understanding of the subject, or as Plato says “Justified, true belief.” It is an undeniable fact that all knowledge holds value, but the question is, what is it that really gives the knowledge this value. It should be either the complexity of the procedure of knowledge production or the end result that is considered to be valuable. To what extent can one value knowledge on the basis of difficulty in production? I’ll be exploring this through the use of Natural Sciences and Mathematics.

Models of Knowledge Production

According to Harold Jarche, there are three models of knowledge production which are as follows:
Knowledge production in mining: In this approach, data is sought after and obtained. It can be broken down, rearranged, mixed and sifted. Value is added by refining, but one cannot create anything different in nature from what already existed originally. The value is derived from the difficulty of obtaining such resources and the reliability of the process.
Knowledge production in construction: Data is treated like raw material yet again. It is worked on by hand and something new we created. Although material above and below what was given cannot be added, one gives value to the data by providing it with structure and purpose. Knowledge construction provides one with the capability to create implications and conjectures and treat raw materials as an aid to make the unstructured data into meaningful information.
Knowledge production as growth: raw material acts as an aid and contributes to the exploration by furthering it, which often results in something new and unprecedented.

Difficulty and Value

The methods stress both the aspects of knowledge creation and the end result. All knowledge production methods can be classified into one or more of the above-mentioned variations. For one, the process of producing knowledge often holds more value as compared to the knowledge produced. For example, my own Mathematics papers. Even if I somehow reach the wrong conclusion, I’m still granted marks as long as my procedure is valid and the steps taken are relevant to the question. Taking the same paper into consideration once again, the more difficult the sum or problem, the more rewarding it is in terms of the marks it provides me with.

Knowledge produced with more difficulty is, on numerous occasions, valued more than the knowledge produced with lesser or no difficulty. The discovery of the gravitational waves in 2016, something that has eluded us for almost a century, is no exception.

Detecting gravitational radiation is nearly impossible, or rather was nearly impossible as it is extremely feeble in its effects. But decades worth of effort put into developments in the fields of cryogenic cooling, laser interferometry, mirrors, vacuum chambers, noise isolation and other technology has led to the formation of Laser Infertometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory (LIGO). This LIGO helped us to detect gravitational waves by observing the collision of two black holes over one billion light years away. Prior to this, we believed gravity to be a force and not a wave, yet again proving the falsifiable nature of natural sciences. The development of LIGO was furthered and resulted in the development of more powerful observatories such as the VIRGO and KAGRA. This discovery will have greater implications and will tend to change the approaches take in both practical and theoretical physics.

Accidental discoveries and their value

Needless to say, the discovery of such waves is obviously valued, but its value cannot be compared to other knowledge produced. Silicon is a very good semiconductor but needs to undergo a process known as doping to be deemed as functional. Graphene would likely work better than silicon, but it proved to be very difficult to dope it. But when researchers placed a layer of graphene on top of soda lime glass (the glass used in regular bottles and windows) it suddenly doped to the perfect level. The scientists inadvertently found the easiest method to dope graphene without having to extensively use chemicals, vacuum chambers or high temperatures. Further development into this will revolutionize electronics and batteries. It might also change the way LIGO works.

What is valued more?

One cannot say that the discovery of gravitational waves as a result of advancements in various fields is more valuable than the accidental discovery of the easiest method for doping graphene since both hold equally high regard to the ones exploring them in their respective fields. This leads to the assumption that the rigor in producing that knowledge isn’t the only factor that administers value to the knowledge. This led me to the question “To what extent do we value the difficulty of the method of production of knowledge more than the utility of knowledge produced?”

An Explanation?

Taking the previous example of mathematics into consideration, one can say that the process is often more important than the knowledge produced. If one is asked to derive the number 4 by the most complex method that he can use in which case, it could simply be stated

2 + 2 = 4,

which is an acceptable method since it gives us the answer 4, but will not be valued a lot. However, I could also say,

Infinite Series Sum counting to 4 - Content Raj

which gives you the sum of an infinite series tending to 4. Not only that I could also provide the equation:

3000th decimal place of pie - Content Raj

which is a function that picks the 3000th decimal place of π, which again happens to be a 4 again. All of the methods are reasonably right since they give you the desired number, but the last one would be valued more since it gives you the desired answer and also tells you that the 3000th decimal place of π is 4, which would otherwise be very tough to derive.

On the other hand, sometimes the knowledge produced holds more value than the procedure of creating knowledge. The invention of zero, for example, is a situation where the knowledge produced holds a lot more value than the method of its production. It was invented by Babylonians, Mayans and Indians independently, it was first introduced as a number entity in India around 628 AD. Initially, different words symbolized 0 such as ‘sky’ and ‘void’ until Brahmagupta developed a symbol for annotating zero – a dot underneath numbers. Later on, Aryabhatta devised a numerical notation for zero, the one we use today.

Zero…

By the 1600s, zero had gained popularity throughout the continent of Europe. It was fundamental in Sir Isaac Newton’s and Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz’s calculus, And Rene Descartes Cartesian coordinate system. This led to further developments in the fields of engineering, physics, finance, computers and economic theory. It holds a very important place in our daily lives since most of our counting systems are based on the existence of zero.

Without zero, mathematics wouldn’t be what it is today as it aids in almost every aspect of it such as elementary algebra, abstract algebra, propositional logic, category theory, lattice theory, recursion theory, set theory and even something as basic as counting principles. The fields of physics, chemistry, biology, astronomy, computer science, telephony, even roulette and date and time systems use the number zero, which has become an integral part of our daily lives.

Concluding Thoughts

In conclusion, the value of knowledge in many cases can be defined by the difficulty faced in its production, but not so much as the utility of the knowledge that has been produced. It is subject to the situation, that requires the knowledge, that gives value to either its procedure or the knowledge itself. A physicist may hold the discovery of gravitational waves in high regard, while an artist might not care about the same. Only the thirsty would know the value of water. Only when you require the knowledge or when the knowledge holds relevance to you might you value it and its method of production.

Knowledge produced with more difficulty often teaches you more than the final knowledge produced as learning in tedious processes often occurs at multiple levels and teaches you various other things along with the intended information. But when information is needed swiftly and immediately, these long methods tend to be overruled by shorter easier procedures. So the value of the procedure and the method is subjective to the situation that demands its existence.