The age of cheap information threatens to drown us in complacency. Knowledge will always outweigh information.
If Brazil's treasures burning teach this era anything, it should be to renew a dedication to the cultivation of knowledge in pursuit of wisdom.


Wikipedia and Google delude many into thinking all human knowledge has been made available to our immediate access.
This is a dangerous lie.
Any scholar will tell you of the vast amount of documents and artifacts completely unavailble online, or indeed impossible to easily scan or study online.
And this silent wealth pales before the oral and analog culture which, in a McLuhanian dimension, can not be simply digitized and maintain integrity.

· brutaldon · 11 · 110 · 111

Digitization of manuscripts and art is deeply important. But it's a kind of insurance against calamity such as in Brazil.
Museums and libraries preserve against the weather of our follies what is most worthy of human endeavour, carrying lessons for posterity beyond our own myopias in the most tangible, immediate ways. These are living spaces, arks of meaning.
Our carelessness before our responsibility to steward these is a sign of the dark ages into which we are slipping.

Show thread

These are the wisest words of sorrow I have read. May we have fewer occasions to need them going forward.

@Shufei Fully agree. The ony thing I'd like to add here: Wikipedia and Google shouldn't possibly delude us into thinking all knowledge *is* available online. They should focus on providing tools to preserve at least the majority of written, printed, paper-based artifacts that otherwise are fragile, expensive to keep "alive" and (as we see in Brazil) easily to be destroyed by a variety of environmental conditions and accidents - fire, climate, water damage, ... .

Brazilian for & Wikipedia 

The fire also shows how important it is to digitize everything we can. Everything sooner or later breaks /falls apart.
Many harp on Wikipedia, but it is the easiest stepping stone into knowledge. Before Wikipedia only a very small amount of people would look up information (in a library). Wikipedia has *not*made the world dumber. Instead it has given us a very broad and easily avails source of common knowledge.


@Shufei I agree and add that maybe it is even more dangerous to think that the available digital information is sufficiently accessible.
That is, with hyperlinked entities and sources and interoperable datasets.

That's a hugely important caveat, thank you.
Database access is insanely restricted. Being poor and outside academia restricts us to lowbrow digest version of periodicals, for instance.
And there are enormous language barriers... Infotech price points... Backwards compatibility horizons... It goes on and on.
So myopic.

@Shufei You make a valid point and if you look at the HQs of what I'll call the Big 3 (FB, Alphabet/Google, Twitter) are in coastal California near a major fault line, all it takes is 1 major natural disaster for it to all come down.

Indeed. Resiliency is a huge argument in favour of decentralization, federation, mass reduplication. Museums and libraries ought to hold huge, durable, long term storage of digital culture, too, and in remote locations such as Svalbard.
As yet we have yet to care about making backups for essentially all of civilization. It's a serious folly, shortsightedness which posterity may curse us.

@Shufei but in the end the amount of information available is more and better then any time in our history, I can observe this when my children have to do assignments, also in my professional live I experience the same

@Shufei "McLuhanian" I know you mean marshal, but that is hard to pronounce! :-)

@Shufei even digital culture is not readily available.

Reference materials and historical documents disappear and are not replaced. Dead links festering across the web, leaving a scar of missing knowledge.

And the information I’m referencing here isn’t even that old. 20-25 years. Stuff that lived on the internet, but died before managed to save it.

@ajroach42 @Shufei Does libgen have a fulltext index? If not, it's time to make one.

@Shufei I would argue, too, that there is something about combing through hard documents, in dusty dark spaces, that stimulate your brain to make connections not otherwise attained by browser searching.

The research is definitely beginning to back this up, showing that paper is a mnemonically superior medium.
I certainly share the love (and serendipitous necessity) of browsing the stacks. When libraries go automated retrieval systems, it truly hurts us as a society.

@Shufei when I was a journalist, investigative projects were dependent on examination of paper, of seeing associations and connections you wouldn't see otherwise. data is nice but has caveats. with a browser search you replace your own brain and eyes with someone else's unknown algorithm sweeping unknown data which, as you correctly point out, is limited. To me, nothing more fun than to go through Registry of Deeds books looking for hidden shell corporations! cheers, g

A good point to stress. These algorithms can both intentionally obfuscate and obfuscate via the "wisdom" of crowds, intensifying biases and received opinions.
I'm further concerned about the dubious fidelity of much OCR texts. Many Chinese manuscripts have enormously high error rates when so scanned, I've found, rendering them only useful as a first run search, and certainly not for reading.

@Shufei That's actually a blind spot I had until now. Thanks for opening my eyes to something I didn't consider before.

@Shufei That problem forms part of the plot in the book I'm reading, Eifelheim:

Sign in to participate in the conversation
Mastodon @ SDF

"I appreciate SDF but it's a general-purpose server and the name doesn't make it obvious that it's about art." - Eugen Rochko