How We Consume Knowledge Through Technology

Key takeaways

  • Centuries ago, and even further back into antiquity, people passed down their histories and knowledge orally, in story form. They did this by memorizing events and other details and identifying them with features and images.
  • Every person possesses two different types of knowledge: tacit and explicit. Explicit knowledge is easier to pass on because it’s based on factual information (e.g., mathematics, historical dates, geographical locations). Tacit knowledge is much more difficult to pass on because it involves intangible, conceptual knowledge (e.g., riding a bike, learning a foreign language, playing a musical instrument).
  • As technology advances, three main mediums: video, artificial intelligence, and virtual reality have made conveying tacit knowledge much easier.
  • Video, for example, is now accessible to a massive range of people via platforms like YouTube. When people try to learn something new on one of these videos, they get much more than simply recited facts and how-to steps. Video allows them to see body language, tone of speech, unique tricks, and other subtle things, which give them a deeper understanding of the topic. It provides tacit knowledge along with explicit knowledge.

A few years ago, I read a book with a sort of funny title called, Moonwalking with Einstein by Joshua Foer. I think that was back in 2011. The book discusses a concept known as memory palaces. I won’t take you too far down into this, but it theorizes about how ancient civilizations and even more modern people, before printed books became common, passed down stories

Basically, they memorized events and all the surrounding details by observing them—actually walking along a path and identifying different features and images. That’s why the book refers to memory palaces. There’s a lot more to it and it’s an interesting book.

As I remembered the book, it brought to mind the two different kinds of knowledge every individual possesses: tacit and explicit. You probably already know what tacit knowledge is. In general, it’s that type of information that you just can’t easily transfer to another person. Think of things like knowing how to ride a bike, speaking a language other than your native tongue, and other things along those lines.

Of course, then there’s explicit knowledge, which is much easier to understand and pass along. Explicit knowledge is based on factual information like where a city is located within a country’s boundaries, or how to work a particular type of math formula. Basically, it’s any bit of information you can simply write down and others can easily understand it.

Why do I bring this up?

It has become relevant because, due to some recent technological advances, we’re now able to pass along tacit knowledge and make it explicit. In other words, these changes in technology make it so we don’t have to use tools like memory palaces for remembering things. This works on three primary mediums: video, artificial intelligence (AI), and virtual reality (VR). Keep in mind that there are many applications for doing this across each of these three platforms.

It’s really interesting because this ability has potential to transform the way we consume knowledge, learn, and understand the world. Imagine that you self-produce a video with the intent of passing along certain knowledge. The way you explain certain very interesting aspects of the topic, the way you come across on the video, the way you use body language, the way you arrange your speech—all of these intangible things help the viewer gain a much deeper understanding of the topic. He or she can internalize the information more fully than s/he could by, say, reading the same explanation.

Most of us, if we’ve had any exposure to YouTube, know how this works. There are videos out there detailing how to prepare a certain meal, put a bicycle together, apply makeup, replace a broken smartphone screen—just about anything else you can imagine. Personally, when I find the right videos, they make it super easy for me to learn how to do something for which I had no previous knowledge—no explicit knowledge whatsoever. The unique tips and tricks that can only be properly conveyed through this medium, that tacit knowledge, make all the difference for me.

It’s interesting to watch how this is happening out in the world. These platforms allow us, for the first time, to make tacit knowledge available in such a way that it’s widely accessible to people. And we’re seeing the results of this in the business place. With these rapidly growing and highly effective platforms, people can get up to speed faster as they go through training and continuing education. It also provides easy access to solid content and information for people working to improve their lives financially and in many other aspects. I’ll have more on this later. Until next time, enjoy.


Gary Klaben is in our Glenview, IL office and serves our clients who are now located all over the country. He has over 30 years of experience and is the author of Changing the Conversation, Wealth of Everything and co-author of The Business BattlefieldWhether advising his clients, mentoring his team, or coaching entrepreneurs, he is always simplifying complexity and motivating others to take the next action that’s right for them.

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