Is there such a thing as Dangerous Knowledge?

It is not unusual to be told by user experience designers that not only do they not need to learn to code, but they would be less effective if they did. Often with the claim that the process of learning to code makes you overly concerned with the workings of computers and not the people that use the products. You gain an engineering mindset, whatever that means. This post is not about addressing the merits of this specific claim. Instead I want to touch on an underlying assumption. The idea of dangerous knowledge. That there are things we can learn that will in some way corrupt us and make us worse at what we do.

Dangerous knowledge is an ancient idea. It is often used to gain or stay in power. I am reminded of the manager who once told me in all sincerity ‘if I told you and the team everything I know, then what would be the point of my role?’.  But it seems even worse when we decide for ourselves that learning can be bad. That smart people can take anti-intellectual positions. That we don’t even blink when many people who are part of delivering software products say proudly ‘I know nothing about how software works and that makes me better at my job’.

So lets not be so foolish. Maybe you are too busy to learn something new. Maybe deep down you are scared to learn. But these are problems that can be overcome. That ultimately taking a bite from the tree of knowledge is not how we fall, but how we can better ourselves and the products we work on.