a liquid stream of facts

“Ironically, in an age of instant global connection, my certainty about anything has decreased. Rather than receiving truth from an authority, I am reduced to assembling my own certainty from the liquid stream of facts flowing through the web. Truth, with a capital T, becomes truths, plural. I have to sort the truths not just about things I care about, but about anything I touch, including areas about which I can’t possibly have any direct knowledge. That means that in general I have to constantly question what I think I know. We might consider this state perfect for the advancement of science, but it also means that I am more likely to have my mind changed for incorrect reasons.” —Kevin Kelly

This is perhaps the most succinct rationale for disciplines like personal knowledge mastery (PKM). We can no longer rely upon traditional gatekeepers of information and knowledge. Each of us must engage with others and develop trusted knowledge networks. None of us are smart enough to handle all the connections in our digital lives on our own. We need to use both our human networks and our machines in concert. Let me give just two examples.

I have offloaded the cognitive load of generating passwords to 1Password. I no longer have to memorize passwords, only the master password to access the application, and it is kept in an encrypted file between my devices. If one of my sites gets compromised, I get 1Password to generate a new one. This application puts machines against machines, as I could not create passwords as strong as the application can. Cognitive load management is one of the skills that PKM helps to develop.

I use Twitter with a focus on building my professional network. First of all, I follow interesting people who share information of value to me. Secondly, I share not only items of professional interest, but I add value by quoting a key phrase in an article, to save others time and to add context. I do the same when I retweet a post. By doing so, I have built a web of trusted connections over time. I also look for people with different perspectives and from various parts of the world, to get a global context. As a result I have thousands of international relationships, as well as a better understanding of our world. If I see something on the mainstream media, I can often corroborate it with a person in that country. From my network I get a more nuanced understanding of the world. Sense-making & social intelligence are two other skills that PKM helps to develop.

Today, you are only as good as your network. Your professional connections, especially those outside your current workplace, are your safety net. They will help you learn, find work, and push your professional boundaries. Author, Stephen Johnson said that, “Chance favors the connected mind”. In the network era, chance favours the connected person. Don’t leave your professional connections up to chance. To learn more, join an online PKM Workshop.

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