2016 – National High School 3rd Place
Kevin Hong, Illinois.
No matter the circumstances, humans have always sought to surpass their limitations. It is undoubtedly true that this ardent spirit of achievement has played a major role in humanity's ascension to global dominance. However, the weight of human accomplishments largely rests on the shoulders of knowledge and imagination. Although knowledge drives society to broaden its understanding of the world, imagination provides the incentive to change and adapt to new modes of thinking, which ultimately leaves a more lasting impact upon society.
If knowledge is to be defined as the comprehension of information by means of experience and perception, then it becomes evident that knowledge is an inconsistent way of measuring value, as human reasoning is inherently prone to error. Formulated in the second century, Ptolemy’s geocentric model of the universe was widely accepted at the time. Approximately 1400 years passed until Copernicus produced the heliocentric model, which nullified a substantial portion of progress made in astronomy after Ptolemy’s time. Since human knowledge proves itself to be tentative and inaccurate for most of history, its subsequent impact on society is significantly diminished. Imagination is not constrained to absolute states of “right” or “wrong”, which allows it to be more subjective and emotional in nature than knowledge. Through artistic and musical forms, imagination creates uniques products that interact directly with society on a psychological level and provoke numerous reactions.
Although imagination and knowledge tend to exist in mutualistic synergy, knowledge is incapable of creating a meaningful impact without the assistance of imagination. Knowledge proposes an objective understanding of an idea, whereas imagination is tasked with the responsibility of interpreting the possibilities and applying them to productive use. For example, the gas laws had very little impact on general society after their initial publishing, yet imaginative applications of the equations led to the creation of the steam locomotive, which revolutionized the transportation and communications industries. Because imagination effectively harnessed the energy stored within knowledge, imagination is directly responsible for shaping global economies and propelling the world into the modern age. Knowledge is merely a resource used by the creative mind to change society.
It can even be argued that knowledge is simple a product of human imagination. The scientific units that are used to record data and perform calculations are based on a standard created by humans. Even the symbols and words used to exchange knowledge are human inventions. Therefore, the entire concept of knowledge and methods of understanding it can be attributed to the power of the imagination. Logical empiricist Ludwig Wittgenstein may well have been justified in declaring. “Of what one cannot speak, of that one must keep silent.”
From the Pyramids of Giza to the Great Wall of China, mankind’s extraordinary imagination has lended itself to the completion of truly astounding feats throughout all of recorded history. Although imagination and knowledge both have become indispensable aspects of modern society, imagination triumphs because it enriches and diversifies the wealth of information available to the human mind. While knowledge serves as a constant reminder of physical restrictions, imagination continues to inspire society with dreams of infinite dimensions and endless possibilities.
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