This is a “meditation” book. It’s not an exhaustive look at any subject, but rather it’s a meandering tour of some of the things we have to consider when examine something.
And what’s we’re examining here is big: how do we know things, and how to we transmit that knowledge? It’s basically discussing all of epistemology.
Here’s a list of some of the subjects, in rough order:
- How do we teach knowledge to children?
- How do we gather knowledge in libraries and other repositories?
- How do we publish news and other time-sensitive information?
- How is information manipulated to deceive?
- How have computers and automation affected how we know things?
I read this at the same time I read Grunt: The Curious Science of Humans at War, and the two books are similar but different. They’re both distant looks at a subject, but this one strives to be more all-encompassing. It tries to wrap its arms around knowledge – to “bookend” it. Whereas Grunt was just a playful dive into specific, interesting topics.
Also, the writer is an older English man, and – frankly – he sounds like it. He’s a little dry. (Although there are some very interesting observations about misinformation based on his personal experience as a journalist on the ground during Bloody Sunday).
The chapters are interesting – all very long, but divided into clear, numbered sections which effectively become “subchapters.” I often stopped in the middle of a chapter, at one of these subchapter markings, which is something I’m loathe to do (I have to complete a chapter in a sitting, for whatever reason).
A good book. Never boring. But, like most books of this type, it’s tough to come away with specific knowledge (ha!) that you can retain and put to practical use.