Saturday, April 18, 2009

A Dangerous Thing

We've heard all to often, "A little knowledge is a dangerous thing." And in this day and age, with the sheer quantity of information and technology, it's more true than ever. And I'm as guilty as anyone. I'm a generalist. I like to understand the ideas and logic about something and then apply the technical stuff whenever and wherever it's necessary or fits.

That's not always the best in conversations and discussions, and especially in debates, because I can't argue details, only the overlying concepts and application. I can always add them as I learn or research because I know what to look for and what can or will fit, but all too often not during the discussion, and sometimes have to decide to shut up or look stupid.

The opposite of this is someone who knows a lot of facts and details. We've all met these folks who can talk and talk ad infinitum about the topics they're "knowledgeable" about. They're often so focused on the details they'll almost always miss the ideas or concepts of the subject.

I got into an Internet dialog on a mailing list (see previous post about "It never ends") and I heard endless points about how much better raw format is in digital photography than jpeg format. I didn't argue that, but argued jpeg has its own advantages and much of the criticism about it no longer applies as the photo editors are better than those of just a few years ago.

But in all the discussion, the folks on the other side wouldn't see let alone admit jpeg format has advantages for many photographers and situations. No, they simply kept piling on the technical information about the advantages of raw format. It wasn't the first time I've had this discussion, but it was the last. I left the mailing list the next day.

I'm not arguing who's smarter. We all have our own experience, knowledge and understanding of what we've done life. I only argue that respect for the other people and their views, and not pummel them with tons of useless technical information to appear smart. It only shows you know facts, but as Albert Einstein said, "Intelligence without imagination is useless."

I once supervised a woman who qualified for MENSA. A very intelligent woman. But she also had a learning disability where she only learned something a certain way. She was great once you taught her something and she could recite all sorts of facts to no end, but she couldn't fit the pieces into a picture. Kinda' like a super computer talking to the world through a dial-up connection.

She also had difficulty grasping the overlying scheme of things which is necessary to integrate information into an idea or concept. She could see a concept, but couldn't fit the facts into it. But her job in data management, operations, production, analysis and publication which required those skills was lost on her. She simply couldn't imagine beyond the facts. That was the missing connection of her intelligence.

After a year working for me I helped her transfer back to her old job of routine work, following proceedures and checklists. I was always struck what and where it went wrong. So intelligent, just not smart. But then, like everyone, I have my faults and flaws to no end, and I too sometimes am blind to them when trying to do or say something.

I learned that in college after the service. I can't understand chemistry to save my life along with many field of physics. I'm ok at math but not beyond basic calculus. I, obviously, don't write eloquently. I can't remember facts and details. And I all too often barely remember the ideas and concepts. And more often than not I'm mentally blind in my zeal to make a point.

And it's why the old adage fits us all. And especially in photography.

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