In the internet article titled “What the Internet Means for How We Think About the World”, Rebecca J. Rosen, the writer of the article holds an interview with David Weinberger, the author of a recently released book titled “Too Big to Know”. The book, in summary, talks about how we as a race are in a midst of a knowledge crisis due to the recent expansions of the internet. The general idea given by Mr. Weinberger is that humans throughout history have relied on paper and lots of research to document knowledge. That if someone were to read a book or article, there was an understanding that the author did the work and research needed to be considered an expert on the topic and that they strived to leave their personal opinions out of the paper. In recent years however, the author states that we have lost this form of knowledge and it has instead been replaced by a new form of knowledge where, for better or worse, knowledge is no longer a hard, steadfast fact, but instead a linked conversation of collected interest.
During the interview, Mr. Weinberger explains that with this form of knowledge the smartest person in any room is no longer a person, but the room itself, and because of this there are both positives and negatives to this new form of knowledge. The negatives, or more specifically the negative argument, is that when given such a vast diversity of rooms and knowledge, a person will tend to look for a view that matches their own, and seek out a form of knowledge that confirms what they already believe. This, Mr. Weinberger explains, leads to the argument called the “echo chamber” argument, and that it is difficult to assess the danger of this argument. On one side, we should be working to prevent this form of validation as it stiffens the growth of knowledge and pushes people to the extremes of knowledge where growth is limited, however there is a level of sameness required for a room to be able to expand its knowledge. The general idea presented by the author is that, for these rooms to sustain themselves and can grow, a general set of rules must be set to keep a topic on course and not divert from its intended goal. Should someone want to discuss a diversion a new room can be created to discuss the diversion, however moderation of the topic is still required to let knowledge on a subject flourish.
The interview, while in my opinion being rather lengthy, hit upon several interesting theories and ideas about the internet and how it is changing the way we view knowledge. Now instead of knowledge being concrete facts tediously being researched and documented in books, it is a fluid form of civil discourse where each person is responsible for their own research and has unique ideas and information to bring to each conversation, and probably the biggest benefit of this new method is that each person can view every source presented so far, and using these sources, as well as any they find, choose to agree with the knowledge presented or they may instead present an alternative theory using the current information.
This article originally appeared here.