Throughout history the way we acquire knowledge has grown and evolved. The invention of the printing press gave us the ability to spread knowledge far and wide, increasing how many people have access to knowledge exponentially. With all the new technologies available this access just keeps increasing. In many ways knowledge is power, but it can be used in such interesting ways. It is not just about the acquisition of knowledge, but also about whether knowledge is made available.
There are many times in science fiction stories where the key to a problem is knowledge either being withheld or disseminated. Sometimes the problem comes around because knowledge has been lost over time due to destruction or other world changing events. The loss of knowledge can have such a huge impact for what the future holds.
Access to Knowledge
One of the big things in the future is the potential for greater access to knowledge. With the Internet today we already have access to so much at our fingertips and as technology evolves that access will just increase. The Matrix is a great example of the acquisition of knowledge with ease. Just plug your brain into a machine and suddenly you have the knowledge of that thing. This is seen in other movies as well, but sometimes it comes at the cost of other memories that might already be stored. The idea with that is that there is only so much knowledge a brain can hold.
The other side of access to knowledge is the idea that those in power try to block access to knowledge. They limit what is actually available because they believe it is better for society. A lot of this is seen in tyrannical sort of societies where they limit the knowledge because by limiting knowledge you can hold the citizens down.
The other side to this is what happens to the future when knowledge is lost? When something so catastrophic happens that we loose the knowledge that we have gained over history. Usually the futures presented in these stories are not that pleasant. The world has practically been destroyed and yet there are remnants of the past that can be found all over these worlds. At the same time they will find items or things that came from a time long past and no one has any idea what they are or what they are for. Often the reveal that it is the far future is a big spoiler, so I’ll avoid giving many examples.
One of the ways these stories play out is that someone from the past travels to the future and they think they are in an entirely different place, but then they find something that shows that they are actually far into the future, like in Planet of the Apes. At the same time the biggest thing that can be noticed with this loss is that we tend to repeat the mistakes of the past.
The greatest power that knowledge provides is that of a knowing choice.