Gathering knowledge for ways of living life.

Posted Apr 26, 2012

Knowledge keeps growing and a major source of learning how to live comes from our searches on the web. However, there is too much for any one person to absorb, and the hits for any one question that we might ask in a search numbers in the millions. Moreover, the web does not include one site dedicated solely to improving our ways of living.

The danger is that when we seek advise on ways of living on the web, we find especially websites that are incomplete, not based on scholarship or science, or even try to take advantage of us commercially, politically, or other ways.  For example, we might use alternative medicinal practices because apparent "classics" have been written about them and anecdotal evidence seems to support them. Alternatively, factors such as wanting to believe in them could help in their healing power so that they do seem to help even though by themselves they do not (the placebo effect). These types of decisions are not without dangers. For example, some people decided not to vaccinate their children against basic diseases because of an unfounded belief that the vaccines cause illnesses such as autism. Contemporary science has shown clearly the fraudulent and dangerous basis for this particular claim, but some people continue to risk the health of their children in a misplaced belief in the claim.

Instead of reverting to the past in face of the complexity of the present, we need to become better at knowledge-empowering ourselves—for example, in our studies, creativity, work, and personal life. Part of the internet world includes the phenomena of wiki sites. For example, there is one that is an encyclopedia, and its content quantity and quality are apparently outstripping classic encyclopedias. There are wikis for definitions. The word wiki has gained popular currency, and its use guarantees a certain allure, such as in the case of political leaks.

In this essay, I am proposing that we develop a wiki for optimal ways of living in modern times, and I refer to it as "WikiWaysofLiving." It should focus on the best ways of dealing with all aspects of our lives, from the personal to family to children, and from education to work to other social roles and activities. It should scour classics, such as the premodern traditions and texts, for advice on dealing with people, being moral, and living an adaptive and healthy lifestyle. However, it should search all eras for good advice, and especially strive to be inclusive of the new knowledge and wisdom that accumulates every day in contemporary times. 

There is much to learn from contemporary study, science, technology, medicine, psychology, music, and other scholarly and creative disciplines that could help in our ways of living. There are wise traditions and premodern texts that deal with teaching us good ways of living, but also there are increasingly better ones every day from which we can learn. In addition, newer knowledge might even teach us how practices described in older traditions and texts are risky or negative for us and that these parts should be gently discarded from study and use.

If there was a wiki site doing this—collecting the core knowledge essential for optimal ways of living and continually updating it—it would be easier for people to consult it and live a better life. Moreover, a wiki such as this one might help avoid the fanaticism that accompanies certain negative beliefs in older traditions and texts, no matter where they have developed in the globe. If this wiki site is ever developed, psychology should be in the forefront. We are ways of living specialists, and we are part of a science that keeps improving insight for your best ways of living.

About the Author

Gerald Young, Ph.D.

Gerald Young, Ph.D., is a professor of psychology at York University.

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