A student of The Greek philosopher Plato, asked the great master of what use were the ideas and abstract theorems he was being taught. Plato at once ordered a slave to give the student a small coin so that he might realise that he had not gained the knowledge for nothing, then had him dismissed from the school.
Another famous story about the English scientist Michael Faraday makes the point even better. Faraday was an enormously popular lecturer, as well as a physicist and chemist. He was a creative mind of the highest order. In a lecture in the 1840s, he demonstrated the behavior of a magnet in connection with a spiral coil of wire which was connected to a galvanometer that would record the presence of an electric current.
There was no current in the wire to begin with, but when the magnet was moved into the hollow center of the spiral coil of wire, the needle of the galvanometer moved to one side of the scale, showing that an electric current was flowing. When the magnet was withdrawn from the coil , the needle moved in the opposite direction, showing that a current flowed the other way. When the magnet was held motionless in any position within the coil, there was no current at all, and the needle remained motionless.
At the conclusion of the lecture, a member of the audience approached Faraday and asked, “Mr. Faraday, the behavior of the magnet and the coil of wire was interesting, but of what possible use can it be?” Faraday answered politely, “Sir, of what use is a newborn baby?”
In his well – researched book: Out of our Minds, Sir Ken Robinson (one of the worlds leading Human Resource experts) has argued that most people (notably in the academic field) are still applying Industrial Age Thinking to problems that require a completely different approach.
So what might that different approach be?
Indeed, we are standing at a great threshold where we need to stop trying only to control our environment with vast information- based ‘manipulation’, but instead we need to have the courage to find new resources of meaning, purpose and energy in co-operation and co-creation with our environment.
In addition, as time has become scarce, knowledge persay is becoming obsolete, (because the internet has made it ubiquitous). Mere knowledge on its own is becoming more and more useless. This is shown by the phenomenon Sir Ken Robinson has called ‘academic inflation’. The value of a university degree is dropping, fast.
It is time to accept now, that our environment is, ultimately, filled with human beings. Man is the ultimate resource. How we shall use (or misuse) that resource is the great question that looms before us.
What use is a newborn baby?