Knowledge only becomes power in the absence of power.
Power, as exercised through force be it violence, coercion, ideology, money, or influence, is not an exercise in ignorance, is not without knowledge. But the truism ‘knowledge is power’ is false so far as it concerns the pursuit of knowledge as such, knowledge in the form of science or philosophy or education for education’s sake (and not the sake of employment, etc.). Consider this: scientists overwhelmingly know that the globe is warming, that the climate is changing, that the oceans are acidifying, that more are more species are going extinct. This knowledge has not, in any real sense, given them the power to change policy to actually do something about it.
Knowledge should directly translate to power and thus education to empowerment but at present it does not. And changing an ‘ought’ to an ‘is’ is no small matter.
Instead, force is power. Force, like knowledge, is currently unequally distributed. Force, unlike knowledge, is not well suited to equal distribution. The solution is not to give everyone nuclear launch codes or even their own gun but instead to reduce the individual and collective capacity for violence across the board. And then to move from a power economy based on force to one more adapted to knowledge – a ‘commodity’ (not that I like to think of it as such) far more suited to equal distribution if efforts were made and resources made available (combined with a completely revised philosophy of education and its purpose).
As an interesting digression, one might be compelled to speculate as to whether human technological advancement has actually hindered our biological evolution. Technology, in a significant majority of contemporary cases, is created to solve social needs and problems created by previous technologies not biological needs. What biological purpose do guns serve? Certainly, as a ranged weapon, they extend the lethality of the human body in hunting and the pursuit of food. But the capacity of firearms to hunt actually exceeds the human need. It might be noted here that the current human population of earth is only supported through advancements in technology (agriculture, etc). But that begs the question of the current human population vs. overpopulation/the carrying capacity of the planet for human life. Is 7.2 billion sustainable? Or the projected 10? Sustainable for whom? For what? And in what sense? One might also question modern medicine. Certainly medical and hygienic advances have extended the length and raised the quality of human life. But much medical advancement has been in areas that industrialization, pollution, and technological advancement have directly caused.
What evolutionary benefit has technology offered vs what they have hindered? (“so preoccupied with whether or not they could that they didn’t stop to think if they should”)
I think it is fair to say that media are the extensions of man and we have become over-extended. Our reach has exceeded our (and the planet’s, and our fellow living creatures’) capacity to adapt. Our rate of (technologically enhanced) change is matched only by those species that have coevolved with us – maize, rats, toy dog breeds, superbugs. Perhaps future of the Anthopocene will be humans living in disinfected bio-enclosures (both terrestrial and orbiting) with our HFCS and miniature pugs while superbugs and rats enter an evolutionary arms race for who will dominate the hot sweltering open air.
This circles back to the original thought. Power as force and the capacity for force needs to be reduced and eliminated. The concept of political empowerment and enfranchisement should not focus on extending the individual and collective capacity for force to more and more people but on reducing that capacity overall. The capacity for annihilation should not be possessed, desired, or sought (“I suppose I could part with one doomsday device and still be feared.”). Moreover, incidental or accidental annihilation (antibiotics have created superbugs and carbon emissions are driving climate change) needs to be better understood and equally avoided. Through knowledge and the power that it would convey in the absence of force.