All That is Thought or Known

The world brain, the Tower of Babel, the Net, the library of Alexandria – at some point every reader, thinker, or dreamer imagines the Totality of Knowledge, accessible at a glance, a thought, a click or swipe, a wave of the hand or brain. Now that we have had a taste of it with the interlocking web and the first generation of decent search engines, practical efforts are afoot to realize this vision. Google started it with their book scanning project, but they stumbled, as this article puts it, and now the “eloquent, diplomatic” and literary lion Robert Darnton, author of “The Case for Books,” trustee of the New York Public Library, and founder of the Gutenberg-e project, is joining in.

In a phrase that calls to mind his expertise in 18th century France, he wants to see a universal library that would “make all knowledge available to all citizens.”

It could happen; it may already be happening. Information and writing can be digitized; books can be scanned; storage is cheap, and the cloud is growing every week. But as the article mentions, there are formidable obstacles, not least copyright law, and the web of relationships among for-profit companies like Google, consortia like the Digital Public Library of America (not the World?), governments, individual writers, librarians, contrarians, custodians, and just plain coots of every stripe and temperament.

Still, we dream. And dreams have a tendency to turn into reality.

Reference: Technology Review

This entry was posted in Culture, Mind and thought. Bookmark the permalink.