The Limits of Knowing

Knowledge puffs up but love edifies! If anyone thinks they know something they know nothing!

The balloon Kenya experience has so far been an amazing one! It has been so great experiencing the different cultures and having a small peek into how it operates, the belief systems and the core values that people hold. It has also brought to the surface many personal thoughts on life and our condition as mankind!

One evening I was talking to a Balloon Kenya Fellow (Shosh) about the challenges of teaching people how to start a business up in the local community. We were talking about how some of the groups just didn’t seem to grasp what we were trying to accomplish in the sense of a mindset change and how that led to them struggling with the curriculum we are trying to teach! Some of the groups really just cannot see the problems in their society that they can bring solutions too… And if they do eventually manage to spot one then trying to think of solutions can be like getting blood out of a stone!

I have been pondering over this for the past couple of days and thinking about how this thinking has also impacted me personally. I know there are problems and things to be improved upon in my own life back in the UK but I cannot seem to gain clarity on what they are! This has led me to believe there is a mindset shift that needs to happen not only in these people but also in myself! The question is what is stopping this shift from happening and how do we all change the way we perceive the world? Even in engineering which I consider to be one of the most progressive fields of study there are obvious limitations in the way we think. I wonder if sometimes it is due to education itself. Is it the very concept we celebrate as being the thing that brings us a sense of empowerment and freedom that is actually restricting and limiting the our ability to think?

I believe we are on the back of the information age which has brought us to a point where we celebrate education and knowledge for more than we celebrate the genius, diversity and flexibility of the human mind. Our level of intelligence is fast becoming about what we know and can memorise rather than our ability to visualise and imagine what the future could look like. Most recently we have seen the likes of smart phones and computer tablets which even 10 years ago were incomprehensible and still confined to the world of science fiction.

Could the average person have thought of that? Would they be able to comprehend and understand the journey ahead of them to make their ideas and dreams a reality?

My ultimate question is when we make education the final answer to empowering people are we instead contributing to the erosion of our ability to think and see the possibilities of tomorrow because the knowledge (natural rules and scientific laws) we have today limits and confines the ideas of tomorrow to the realm of impossibility.

It seems to be the same in Kenya. In fact, the groups who only have the basic education seem to be competing more than adequately with those with undergraduate degrees. And with some of my groups they are actually performing better. This is illustrated at home as well! I have 3 siblings and 3 of us have degrees – 2 in engineering and 1 has a Phd in chemistry. While we all have or will have good job prospects it is my cousin who only has a GCSE in art who has been CEO of 2-3 fashion companies like Moss Bros and Versace and is known for his genius in turning large companies around!

So, it’s not that I am against education as such, but I believe education needs to have context rather than being the context!

I wonder what would happen if we trained people how to think as well as give them a knowledge base?