When I started getting serious about wanting to write a blog a few
months ago, I often felt paralyzed. I felt that I needed to be the one
source for knowledge on some particular topic and then, only then,
could I write a blog that was worthwhile. And maybe that’s still true;
there are so many blog articles out there already about Ruby and Rails
and C and other stuff that it is difficult to break through and come up
with unique content.
When I realized I was not allowing myself to write a blog because of
this feeling, I started thinking about what knowledge I had that nobody
else in the world had, or at least that nobody else in the world was
And I came up with nothing.
But that’s not the point of this post. The point of this post is to
contemplate the idea of unique knowledge: its existence, how to obtain
it, and whether its worth it in the end anyway.
Is there really such a thing as unique knowledge?
One of the first questions that came to mind while thinking about what I
could write was “Is there really such a thing as unique knowledge.” I
quickly came to the (now obvious) conclusion that, yes, there is such a
thing as unique knowledge. Unique knowledge comes from 1) unique
experiences, 2) intense research into previously unresearched territory,
and 3) innovation – building and creating new things.
The human experience is interesting, though, and while we have unique
experiences and therefore have unique knowledge, much of human
experience is not unique in terms of category or emotion. Most everyone
experiences happiness (I hope), sadness, heartache, loss, excitement,
arousal, stress, and exhaustion, among a whole lot of other emotions. A
lot of people write stories and film movies and create art to express
and more deeply understand these emotions.
Another thing that’s interesting about the human experience is that we
as humans love to share our experiences with others. Even I, an
introvert, enjoy telling my coworkers, my wife, my brother, whoever
really, about my life experiences. Unique knowledge that comes through
experience is often disseminated rapidly and soon becomes widely shared
How to go about getting unique knowledge
When researchers look at human experience, though, they often come up
with new knowledge about why we experience things the way we do, or how
certain experiences affect our lives. Because the number of variables
involved in experiences is so huge, there will probably always be room
for doing more research in that area, and unique knowledge will be
generated, then disseminated to other researchers or to the public.
It’s difficult to get to the point, though, where you are able to
understand a topic well enough to know what about it is yet unknown.
From my inexperienced perspective, it seems to me that half the battle
when trying to get a Ph.D. is figuring out what 1) interests you and 2)
hasn’t been researched yet. The other half is convincing other people
that your research is worth doing and then actually doing the research,
of course. Anyone with a Ph.D., please set me straight if I’m off here.
Basically, what I’m getting at is illustrated by Matt Might in
The illustrated guide to a Ph.D.. Anything outside of that circle
is novel knowledge.
The last way of getting unique knowledge (that I can think of this
morning), is to innovate by building and creating new things. There are
infinite possibilities here. The Arduino platform, for example,
was not unique in some ways, but its particular schematic, its use of
components, and its combination with a software program built
specifically for it was unique, and that enabled it to really take off.
Is unique knowledge worth anything, and/or is its pursuit worth it?
Unique knowledge in and of itself is worth squat. It’s kind of like the
philosophical discussions on reality where reality only exists with
perception. So if you’re the only one with knowledge about something,
you might as well say that that knowledge doesn’t exist at all. Once
knowledge is shared with others, used to create something new, or
otherwise utilized to some effect, that is when it becomes valuable.
Whether that value is good or bad is another discussion altogether.
My frustration for not having unique knowledge about anything was
definitely misguided. First of all, having unique knowledge is of no
worth to anyone unless I share it (and then my unique knowledge bank
account is depleted). Secondly, it can take a lot of work to obtain
unique knowledge, so it’s okay if I’m not quite there yet. And lastly,
I’m pretty sure everyone has some knowledge that, while not unique, is
not well-known, and sharing that knowledge in a blog might just be worth
it to someone.
It’s now my task and my desire to go out and experience new things,
start researching something that I’m passionate about, create things as
often as possible, and then share what I learn in the process.
I’m glad I got that out there. :) Thanks for listening.