Tuesday, 23 September 2008

Infinite knowledge?

One of the strange things about religion is its presumption of omniscience; that is the concept that everything that needs to be known and understood already is. In religion the only entity that understands everything is, of course, God. Humans are still someway behind in the knowledge game.

But what is infinite knowledge? Well there is the philosophical notion that you can always know more than you know now. This is because there are an infinite number of numbers, for example, and you can always know one more number than you know now.

Yet despite this infinity in numbers, the ability to know more numbers does not mean that our knowledge is infinite. It simply means that the number of numbers is infinite. And crucially of course: numbers are NOT knowledge anyway; they are merely numbers. Everyone understands that if you keep adding 1 to n you will keep getting a bigger number and that you will continue adding up indefinitely. That doesn’t mean you have infinite knowledge – just knowledge of the infinite.

Yet the zeitgeist moves on. And humans are acquiring more and more knowledge. But this gives rise to some interesting questions.

First of all, what proportion of all knowledge is known at a given moment in time? Perhaps humans know 14 percent of all there is to know at the current time in the year 2008? Or maybe we are only at the level of 5 percent of all universal knowledge?

But what is sure is that we know far more today than we did say 400 years ago when we knew not much at all – and even what we did “know” 400 years ago was probably even wrong: the earth was flat; scurvy was due to poor hygiene; man would never fly etc etc.

And looking forward, how much knowledge will we have, in say, the year 2500? Surely a lot more than now – maybe 20 percent of everything there is to know?

But in the year 2500, will the knowledge that we have now (that is in the year 2008) also look rather unconvincing in retrospect – just like the “knowledge” that we thought we had acquired 400 years ago back in the year 1608?

And, moreover, how long will it take for humans to attain 100 percent universal knowledge? 10,000 years? 50,000 years? A time when we shall completely understand everything and a time when no scientific experiment will ever have to be carried out again. A scary thought that – all knowledge has been acquired – no more targets to reach, the game effectively over and the board and pieces put back away in the cupboard. A time when humans become God. But will we ever get there? Well only time will tell of course…


Anthony1138 said...

Your article is interseting, however you have several flawed points, you assume that it would take 10,000 years to learn everything, when at the most it would take only 1 of your years.

Omniscience has been said to appear and reappear through-out history, many explanations are possible, but let me share with you this thought.

Imagen human beings having the technogly to go in space and explore new worlds, you are on one of those ships, you come across a planet like earth, but its inhabitants, are very violent to outsiders.

But you still wish to learn about them, disguse yourself as one of them, you appear like them, yet mentally you are much differnt, assuming you could learn thier language, you start teaching them various things about science and space.

To you, you are merely teaching these inhabitants the "basics" to them, you are a god, that holds great amounts of knowledge (compared to them anyway)

Now that i have given you this basic idea, does this answer something for you? the situation is reversed, but it is the same one.

Now say beings from another world, were to be on this planet without being detected, they would knot a great deal more then you.

Thier knowledge would be considered Omniscience, assuming these beings learned time travel, they would be able to learn everything about the universe, things you could not possibly comprehend.

Keep this in mind, share it with others, have a good day.