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The (staying) power of knowledge
Can we know anything with certainty? Of all the knowledge we hold dear today, what will we still be certain of 50 or 100 years from now?
In But What If We’re Wrong? Thinking About the Present as If It Were the Past, cultural critic Chuck Klosterman mischievously poses these questions about many aspects of culture and science in an effort to get us to consider the relative character of all knowledge.
Take team sports, for example. In Klosterman’s view, we’re building a world in which the competitive nature and emotionally and physically injurious character of team sports don’t fit as they once did. “We want a pain-free world where everyone is the same, even if they are not. That can’t happen in world where we’re still keeping score.”
Rock music, writes Klosterman, “will recede out of view, just as all great things eventually do.” Some 500 years from now, when a college professor attempts to bring to life the concept of rock music through one artist, will it be Chuck Berry or Bob Dylan? Klosterman doesn’t think it will be Dylan; if it is, though, he doesn’t know if that means things went right or wrong, but probably both.
As it turns out, it’s not so much that anyone’s right or wrong about various matters; it’s just that the cultural contexts in which all knowledge is viewed change from one generation to the next. One thing we can be certain of: We’re all wrong some of the time.