About Knowledge

There is a particular kind of person.

The kind that has once heard the aphorism “knowledge is power” as a kid, and taken it all too seriously. The kind that could probably spell the Latin version of the phrase. The kind that poured most of their stat points to “wisdom”, hoping to be the wizard of the story.

Of course, one rarely questions what “power” actually is. Let’s define it as the ability to influence the state of the environment as well as the behaviour of its agents.

Knowledge definitely was power, once.

The new world weakened it. The characteristics of what we call knowledge is vastly different and more fragmented now. It is still important, maybe even more so, but not nearly as powerful.

I like to retrofit one of the notes from Newton’s alchemy texts to depict the new knowledge.

The vital agent diffused through everything in the earth is one and the same. And it is a mercurial spirit, extremely subtle and supremely volatile, which is dispersed through every place.

The new knowledge will change whenever you are sleeping, whenever you look the other way. It will change whenever you blink.

It will regress, and it will get revised and deprecated. It will be staged, and it will be branched.

The new knowledge, is a repository in version control. As such, it needs an active maintainer.

In a world of assets and liabilities, knowledge is only potentially an asset, but always a liability.

The good thing is, even though it doesn’t make you more powerful, it definitely makes you better. It gives you perspective. It gives you the ability to fill the new, interdisciplinary roles that are emerging, as long as you actively maintain at least one of those repositories.

I am a programmer, with knowledge and experience in computer graphics. I studied architecture, and I did organization/event management for some years. I settled on game industry, not only because I love games, but also because I can apply all of this knowledge in games.

Whenever people ask me why I include my work as an architect as vocational experience in my game developer CV, I remind them of a particular architect:

Christopher Alexander, whose research in patterns of architectural design and urban planning in 60s helped shape how we design large scale software projects today. His work was required reading in CS circles. He heavily influenced the research on Object Oriented Programming, as well as the design of C++. The whole Design Patterns movement was solely based on Alexander’s work.

Job titles are products of a well-defined, well-tested distribution of work. Not a definitive categorization of knowledge and expertise. Multiple areas of knowledge may be hard to actively maintain, let alone to apply. But they are meaningful, as long as you are able to specialize on one. The others, even when deprecated, will keep making you better.