Keith Howell: Despite all our information, the wisdom to make the world a better place is still lacking

Information at our fingertips doesnt seem to make us wiser
Information at our fingertips doesnt seem to make us wiser
Share this article
Have your say

It is a curious thing that while more than ever before we appear to have almost limitless information literally at our fingertips, converting this into better lives for all is as difficult as ever.

It seems despite all that accessible knowledge, wisdom continues to be in short supply.

The lessons of past conflicts, for example, demonstrate the folly of resorting to violence in resolving our differences, but it is difficult to view the world today as a much safer place than in the past.

Some of the foremost leaders in the world are renowned not for compassion and wisdom but for their egos and brinkmanship, leading to fears that differences between them could trigger a conflagration. Equally, the world suffers from those who remorselessly exploit the vulnerable as they impose power through terror under a cloak of false religious justification.

Quite apart from the threat of wars, there is also what should by now after thousands of years of experience be a reasonably straightforward thing – namely living happily and sustainably together in communities, nations and groups of nations.

Yet for all our understanding and resources, those leading us often struggle to have the impact they would like. Well-meaning presidents and prime ministers alike come and go, and as they depart wonder whether they have achieved any lasting good.

Equally, well-intended international organisations formed to promote peace and cooperation between nations find themselves lacking proper influence and relevance, when the most powerful can ignore them with impunity.

Scientific and technological progress continues to transform the world in which we live, but everything from the internet to medical advances bring unexpected consequences. The world wide web provides a window into the worst as well as the best of humankind, while improved health and medical care extend lifetimes but in turn expose a greater proportion of us to the ravages of very old age.

Doing things faster and having more of everything, including access to instant news, means a world where those wanting to manipulate and control are arguably better placed than ever.

Democratically elected governments can too readily resort to an influence agenda that is really little more than sophisticated propaganda. Even those politicians who do try to keep to their principles can find their voice lost amidst dogma and intransigence that can so readily smother honest reflection and block genuinely progressive and transformational change.

The key for us all is to set aside differences, to focus with real empathy for each other and use understanding of the human condition to honestly address the challenges we face.

Ultimately wisdom is what can set us apart as a species seeking to improve and cherish our world.

But our leaders need more often to take a deep breath and reflect on what is right, not simply what is politically expedient.

Keith Howell is a business consultant. He lives in West Linton, Peeblesshire and blogs on