The Internet and the Demise of Knowledge

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The Internet and the Demise of Knowledge

The Internet and the Demise of KnowledgeIt’s wonderful to have such an incredible wealth of information under one’s fingertips. Nothing brings such a feeling as using the World Wide Web; the speed of sound, the essays of George Orwell, the history of computer security: all can be found with very little effort on the Internet.

Unity of Minds Through the Internet

In bringing people together—whether it be academics, professionals, or simply friends—the Internet provides a great framework for collaboration. The collective mind is greater than the individual; forums provide professional and personal advice, instant messaging strengthens communication, and the Web acts as the biggest information resource ever seen. In the digital age, a vast goldmine of information readily available for all to use can only be a good thing. Or can it?

The Value of Information that Never Goes Away

Thirty years ago, should a musician have stumbled upon a library book teaching them several very important lessons about music, those lessons would be enthusiastically absorbed. After all, the book may have gone by tomorrow. When all that information is readily available on the Internet, though, why learn it now?

 

Wikipedia and Google: Research Skills?

A growing source of concern for university lecturers is the citing of Wikipedia in essays and dissertations. Either students do not realise that this isn’t a reliable source of information, or they don’t think it’s worth finding a back-up source; the Internet is either making students ignorant or lazy. It is barely worth pondering over which is the case, as, frankly, each is as bad as the other.

In good academic research, the Internet is now an invaluable tool. Sites such as Compendex, Nature, and SpringerLink have search tools that save a lifetime of manual searching. The problem is that Google can perform a partially adequate job all on its own.

Are future generations going to be able to find items in libraries or supermarkets without the help of Google? Do we really want to foster a society dependant on an ethically-sketchy, personal-data-and-money-obsessed organisation that seems hell-bent on knowing where we are and what we’re doing 24 hours a day? Hopefully not.

All these problems seem to be compounded by the fact that the Internet is slowly killing off books [1]. Borders (UK) Ltd. recently went into administration, and the high-street bookstore is becoming a rare commodity [2]. The Internet takes a stronger influence on our lives by the day. It’s still true that society controls the Internet, but this will not be the case forever; perhaps we should stop and think about what we’re doing before it knows more than we do.

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