Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Disappearing wealth and the problem of knowledge

America, and Americans, have for a while now considered a part of settled 'knowledge' a lot of things we can't anymore claim as real knowledge. For example, the sacred free-market: as a consensus grows around the notion of government intervention to save capitalism, the old belief that the market stands best when standing alone is quickly becoming outdated. As a result, we are collectively experiencing what the philosopher John Dewey called a 'problematic situation' -- when old habits aren't up to the task of reasonably interpreting present reality, an individual or a country faces a problem. What should we now think? And how do we have to adapt our behavior to face the new facts? As I see present events unfolding, the most tangible problem about our old knowledge is this: We aren't as wealthy as we thought we were. I'll get back to this point in lots of future posts, but today I want to discuss the two data-images just below, which both deal with the task before us: gaining a grasp of reality independent of our old habits and beliefs. This takes, of course, data.

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