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The new www context

Here is a short paragraph taken from Nate Silver’s interesting book called “The Signal and the Noise: The Art and Science of Prediction“.

"Information becomes knowledge only when it’s placed in context. Without it, we have no way to differentiate the signal from the noise, and our search for the truth might be swamped by false positives."

This is applicable not just for predictions, but also in our daily lives. We are inundated with data points of all sorts, aren’t we? At work, junior employees often work irritably on specific mundane tasks, without understanding the impact of their overall contributions. Separately, a govt. might enact a variety of structural reforms – but regardless of the reform, some will support and others oppose. Whatsapp messages abound with magical cures for all sorts of ailments, but who is to say for sure? Plenty of images circulate, claiming all sorts of things – but how would one know these aren’t hoaxes?

We face such contextual conundrums even in spirituality. For instance, chapter 4 of the Bhagavad Gita mentions the caste system. A perfunctory glance would have the reader cry out that Krishna has not just created the disparaged caste system of today, but is also supportive of it! However, a deeper contextual study would expound the underlying rationale – which was to bring efficiency to work by categorizing people based on their inherent abilities, traits and inclinations.

Indeed context is imperative in spirituality, as in life. Our ancients called this “desha, kaala, paristhiti”, which translates to Place, Time and Situation. In today’s world, there is only one person who can consistently and logically interpret and apply the thoughts of our wise ancestors. That person is the Guru. As the Guru says, nothing must be applied without common sense. No size fits all, whether in Work, Whatsapp or Worship.

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