KNOWLEDGE DOES NOT TAKE PLACE? Time passes for everyone. And yes, there are clear signs that we are already in ‘veterans’… and some really do. The first is when you realize that the elders, who knew everything and were capable of doing the possible and impossible, are not Superman. That superhero that, when we reached a certain age, we wanted to be. The second, when children –and not so children– start calling you ‘sir’, not to mention when they already address you like that even in the supermarket or restaurant. And what about the disappointment when you realize that you cannot learn everything? At an age, new knowledge erases from our memory those acquired for years. As painful as it may seem, we have a limited memory capacity, as if it were an old PC.
The forgetting curve theory, developed by the German psychologist Hermann Ebbinghaus in 1885, illustrates the loss of retentiveness over time. Leaving aside insurmountable factors such as the difficulty of the syllabus or our age, or physiological factors such as sleep or stress, Ebbinghaus determined that one day after having studied and not reviewed, 50% of the subject is forgotten; after two days, a maximum of 30% is remembered; and after only a week, memory barely retains 3%. Our brain decides so, so as not to become saturated with information. Because this does take place, and learning and its application is synonymous with power.
For much of history, culture has been within the reach of a privileged few. A book was a rare object, a precious item: if you had it, you would read and study it. The acquisition of knowledge required mental effort and significant space to store books and encyclopedias. With the advent of the digital age, knowledge has been freed from its physical shackles and is available to anyone willing to search and learn, even though the amount of information is overwhelming. Of course, we must be clear that knowledge does take place; that, as Ebbinghaus pointed out, we will forget most of what we have learned, mainly what we do not need; and that there is no empty learning. As Nuccio Ordine defends, there is nothing useless, not even uselessness itself. The goal is not to win the Trivial, but to try to be better and learn to reason independently. Remember, now we are Superman, that man who knows everything.
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