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George Magarshak scientist, writer, poet and bard, publicist, playwright, TV presenter, comedian, merry fellow, tragedian

 JOURNAL "KNOWLEDGE-POWER", №3, 2007, pp. 34-40


Always someone and something knows not that everyone.  Doesn't everyone know the same thing? Andrey Bitov

I know that I know nothing. Plato through Socrates or Socrates through Plato


Ever since Francis Bacon said: “Ipsa Scientia Potestas Est”, which is translated into our language even more briefly and aphoristically: “Knowledge is power”, incense has been burned daily in the process of knowledge. To say something critical of knowledge - not some of its branches, but knowledge in general, as such - has become a dangerous, threatening ostracism in a civilized society. Almost like in the days of the Inquisition - heresy. And no one will say: “Oh holy simplicity!” or "Forgive them, for they know not what they say." No sincere confession and repentance will ease the fate of the heretic of Truth. 


Knowledge has become religion. And in the legendary times, which are well remembered by everyone over thirty, it completely replaced it. It is no coincidence that the institutes of physics and biochemistry, the hangars of synchrophasotrons, the adits of intercontinental missiles, and even the dolphinariums of scientific research institutes were called the high name "temple". At least that's what they were called under socialism. And they did the right thing: in the temples of science, sacred rites take place, inaccessible to the uninitiated. They are even those who are sitting in the next room. Even at the next table. And in the case of a particularly secret scientific rite, the priest himself. After all, he also vaguely understands what he is doing and whether anyone needs it.

In our age, when there are fewer and fewer saints on Earth every day, the holiness of misunderstanding is perhaps the last thing left sacred to the sinful population of the Earth. The space under a woman's skirt, considered the holy of holies some hundred years ago, has become public property, like the skirt itself. The sacred right of kings to dominate their subjects does not arouse reverence in the subjects, but a wry smile. Against this background, the mystery of knowledge - any, regardless of their nature and application - looks

very ennobling.

However, the glorification of knowledge began long before Lord Bacon. And even before that Athenian evening, when Socrates, in a conversation with his students, told them that wisdom is a virtue. What is wisdom without knowledge? Or maybe the worship of wisdom began a millennium earlier? But what is a thousand years for us if we still do not remember who ruled earlier - Nebuchadnezzar or Ashurbanipal - and for how many decades or millennia? And yet there is no doubt that Solomon the Wise was ahead of Plato in his reverence for wisdom. So he said: "He who increases knowledge, increases sorrow." In combination with another aphorism of the wisest of the prophets - "Have fun, young man, in the days of your youth, until the years come, about which you say: I have no joy in them" - this, logically reasoning, seems to encourage the young man to do anything, just not preparing for exams. For one of two things: either rejoice and do not multiply sorrow, or sorrow, preparing for the next
sessions, but not both.


Even if you think for a thousand years about the combination of two sayings, you will not understand how to combine the increase of knowledge with the joy of being. Over the past three thousand years, the interpreters and followers of the king of sages have not given much thought to this. But in vain. In our age of progress that does not stop for a second, a freethinker who praises ignorance runs the risk of being alone. You can offer polygamy, same-sex marriages, but you can not call for ignorance. The more blasphemous - and at the same time more revolutionary and audacious -

my silent call will sound.

What is so seditious I'm going to say? Knowledge is not always power. Or rather, almost never. More often than not, it is a weakness. And the further, the more.


But above all, I would not like to be misunderstood. More precisely, to give a global meaning to the paradoxical statement. Claiming that Ignorance is Strength, I am not telling the whole truth, but only part of the truth.  

I do not urge schoolchildren to get deuces, not to know who the author of Sholokhov’s novel “Quiet Flows the Don”, but in response to the teacher’s request to finally learn what the sine of thirty degrees equals, loudly announce, shaking this article, that his rights as a citizen and person are infringed. I do not exclaim: "Do you love ignorance as I love it?!" On the contrary, I would like that, having understood for itself the power of ignorance, the young tribe began to learn even more assertively and more effectively. A statement of the fact that ignorance is a power, perhaps even more terrible than
beauty, is not a call to ignorance. Ignorance is not ignorance, but resistance to knowledge as such. And certainly the right to ignorance cannot serve as an excuse for anti-knowledge, anti-science, pseudo-science and pseudo-science. 

What is it about in this case?

When a person experiences a burning thirst, say in the desert, he only thinks about how to get drunk. All his activity is aimed at finding a pond, a well, a puddle ... But as soon as he quenches his thirst, other needs will appear. He can think about the consistency of the drink that God sent him. Little by little, he will again begin to distinguish lemonade from narzan and mead from whiskey and soda. He may not think about drinking at all and find himself other objects of attention. However, if that same person finds himself in the middle of a flood, if the water has flooded his house and is about to cover him with his head, the problem of thirst ceases to be a problem at all. Drink as much as you like! But you can't drink the sea or the overflowing river. You need to take completely different measures to get rid of the flood.

That's how knowledge is. Lord Bacon delivered his aphorism under quite different conditions. Then the writing of each book, like her correspondence, required gigantic efforts. Each book was adequately bound, realizing that this is an enduring value. Each was published on a special paper. Taking the manuscript off the shelf, the reader already felt respect for him, regardless of what was hidden under the cover. And on top of that, respect for the work and art of those who created it. And he did the right thing. There were good reasons for a priori respect for written information


It’s not like now when everyone can scribble a couple of kilobytes, lazily moving their fingers on the keyboard, with one movement of the little finger translate their opus into a calligraphic font, add a couple of photos pulled from the Internet, and then all this high-tech and beautifully designed nonsense with the movement of the other send a little finger to a hundred thousand people. When, addressing hundreds of millions on television, you can carry any nonsense. And in the newspapers you can publish anything - from the glorification of Hitler to the refutation of the second law of thermodynamics. Our conditions today are not at all those in which Sir Francis had to be milord. They can be called an information flood. And aphorisms, like the laws of nature, are not absolute. Even Newton's laws and Einstein's theory of relativity, even the sayings of Solomon the Wise. They are only true as long as

There were times when all knowledge had to be swallowed greedily, like water in the desert. Today there is so much so-called knowledge, and they are so intrusive that it is just right to brush them off, like mosquitoes in the taiga. What information should be avoided, and what information should be eagerly listened to? And if you listen, then to what degree of detail and deepening? What kind of ignorance is preferable to knowledge? Where is it necessary to dig this or that plot of science and at what depth to stop in order to move to a new place? This is what should be taught in schools and institutes along with the acquisition of knowledge as such. Isn't it obvious?

At the end of the twentieth century, we imperceptibly came to a situation where the breadth of knowledge in one person began to seem impossible, and erudition becomes almost synonymous with superficiality. The specialist, according to the dominant belief, should only be narrow. This is an extremely dangerous trend. 

An educated person should have a fairly complete and adequate understanding of the world around him. In this ideal picture, knowledge gained from personal experience forms the immediate landscape. It smoothly passes into the hills of the surrounding cultural world, and those, in turn, into distant, but clearly distinguishable ridges of distant sections of science and culture, closed by a horizon of knowledge common to all educated people. Today, the common horizon is lost, and many fragments of this picture are filled with mythological fog.

Right now the human mind is under the influence of extremely aggressive and unbalanced information. As a result, for each of us, the main thing is the selection and filtering of information instead of its perception. The art of filtering information has become at least as important as knowledge and creation. This reality, which is radically different from that of a hundred or five hundred years ago, forces specialists to hide in the zones of their individual expertise, which locks people into professional groups with their narrow interests. Artificially difficult, deliberately hard contact with the outside world for closed groups gives rise to a civilization fragmented into niches of sectarian ideologies. This path changes the character of civilization. She loses the logic of development. There is a chaotic change of dominant groups that have a diametrically opposite vision of the world. The creation of a sufficiently universal basis of knowledge, cultural and ethical values ​​will make it possible to resist sectarian tendencies. Ideally, this will lead to the creation of a society in which the positive activities of individual groups can, in principle, be evaluated by others, and contacts between individual groups mutually enrich them and are devoid of confrontation.

However, the power contained in ignorance has not only methodological and cognitive aspects. Have you thought that






That's why,


Before asking anything, it would be worth thinking three times:

Do we really need this answer?



Imagine for a moment that the dream of those who guessed in all possible ways - from cards to peering into mirrors - came true: you became aware of your fate. And what good

promises you this knowledge? Never mind! Rather, on the contrary.

And how sweet not to know that in four days the war will begin. Or that a dump truck will crash into your Mercedes in five minutes. Or that the woman you love will leave you in a month and you will never see her again. Oh, ignorance is a great blessing!

One great sage sage said: events never unfold the way we want or fear. The Lord has given us the blessing of ignorance. At least the future. Therefore, let us thank Him.


And let's not talk about sad things. Let's imagine that we are a fly crawling on a Mona Lisa canvas. We can touch every roughness, see every stroke, run back and forth to see the picture better ... And how much knowledge about the beauty of the masterpiece as a whole will we get from knowing every detail? Not at all!      

I will say more: if knowledge were too detailed, many scientific laws would not be discovered at all. For example, Ohm's law, according to which current is proportional to voltage. It is true only with the strictest rectilinear conductor without induced capacitances, at an absolutely constant temperature. If Ohm had modern equipment that measures current to the fifth decimal place, he most likely would never have discovered his law and would not have become the world famous OMOM. Hence the moral: know only as much as you need. Do not delve into the problem more than you or the customer needs. And:


do not ask unnecessary questions to your neighbors and the universe. Because you and no one else are responsible for the answers. 


And here is what Pyotr Alekseevich Nikolaev, head of the Department of  Theory of Literature at the Philological Faculty of Moscow University, told me: “We were with the poet Yevgeny Vinokurov in Belgium, and Vinokurov was asked: why does he not know English? And he replied: " A good poet must not know a lot ." In my opinion, this is correct. Oversaturation with information is fatal: only a consciousness free from the burden of unnecessary details is capable of creating something new. »    

I remembered how I was struck when visiting the museum-apartment of Akhmatova (the closet in which Anna Andreevna lived in recent years) the words of the guide that in the last years of her life the greatest Russian poetess had only four books in her personal possession. Maybe the poet really does not need to know too much? To see what others do not see, vision must be very selective.

My friend, a brilliant - I am convinced - painter B., when asked how he manages to see the world so superbly vague and full of optimistic colors when depicting courtyards, gates, houses that certainly do not caress the eyes, replied: “I just take off my glasses. Color spots remain, and their dirty content disappears.


Isn't this a working model of building a world of indistinct boundaries by making them blurry? The main difference between painting and graphics is precisely in the absence of clear boundaries, and not at all in filling surfaces with color. An artist can be a graphic artist even if he paints in oils. Dürer, both in self-portraits and on canvases depicting plants with supersensual clarity, remains a master of lines. Manet is a painter even in pencil drawings. The down-sharpness of a camera is often much more informative than a high-resolution TV screen. There is nothing to say about the distribution of light and shadow. But  who and when thought about the play of light and shadow in the space of knowledge? Who was interested in the knocked-down sharpness in sociology or linguistics through smoky glasses?   




Knowledge is as much information as entropy. The call for an increase in knowledge, without specifying which one, is no less strange than the call for an increase in entropy. Joy at the ever-increasing amount of information is as absurd as jubilation at the ever-increasing chaos.       

The human brain does not work according to Shannon. After the amount of information exceeds a certain barrier to prevail over recognition. After the amount of information in the media, including electronic ones, exceeded a certain barrier, it began to turn into its opposite - non-information.


Professor A.N. Leontiev astutely said in the 1960s: 


an excess of information leads to impoverishment of the soul .


Sergey Petrovich Kapitsa often repeated this phrase, considering it not just important, but one of the cornerstone principles of the scientific and emotional worldview.


A person of the 21st century needs to freely navigate in a multitude of knowledge. He should, as it were, soar in their space, choosing in each case the optimal height, the measure of detail, the speed of movement, the trajectory ... Modern civilization forces a repeated change of activity throughout life. This requires a completely different strategy, and this is one of the most important characteristics of the society of the coming century. Dynamic orientation will allow a person to consciously build his life trajectory. And its choice becomes as important as individual knowledge and skills in themselves*.

And now, after all that has been said and left unsaid, let's try to sum up.

Knowledge is not always power.

Or rather, almost never. More often than not, knowledge is weakness. 

And the further, the more. 

If we choose today what is power - knowledge or ignorance, 

 I would definitely prefer the latter.

The right not to know is one of the fundamental human rights. Which in
a civilized society is even more 
inalienable than freedom of speech and the right to assemble. The right not to know is as much an integral part of life as the right to breathe. 

From not understanding what a powerful force is ignorance, we lose 
the right to our ignorance. And completely uncomplaining. 

Oblivion (forgetting) is the same integral part of consciousness as cognition. For if it were not for it, a person would be crushed by the weight of knowledge that he does not need.  

Control over the trajectory of knowledge, its speed and height, the balance between depth and breadth, knowledge and ignorance is the essence of any mental activity. The trajectory of knowledge is even more important than knowledge itself.   

"I don't want to know!" is the cry of mankind in the ocean of information. And disinformation inseparable from it.

Unnecessary information is anti-knowledge. Advertising is the engine of regression. A bad book is worse than no book.

The process of cognition is not a sacred cow. If information is a sea, knowledge in this sea is a desert. For from knowledge to knowledge in the sea of ​​knowledge, as from oasis to oasis, today you have to go and go.    

Knowledge should be more like 
an ikebana than a meadow. He who increases knowledge takes on a terrible risk: to increase not wisdom, and not even only sorrow. If knowledge does not occur purposefully and selectively , it does not increase, but reduces the amount of knowledge.      

God! Grant me the happiness of knowing everything I need to know, the wisdom not to know what I don't need to know, and protection so that knowledge that I don't need can't enter my head. 

If you can not know - do not know, and before going into details, think three times whether you need them.  

For by nature 



Knowledge Itself Is Weakness.

"Knowledge itself is powerless."

Y. Magarshakzine "KNOWLEDGE IS FORCE", No. 3, pp. 34-40


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