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30 Jan

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Mankind’s knowledge isn’t in the network, it’s in our heads. Oh wait, no it isn’t.

January 30, 2012 | By |

In a fairly ridiculous comment on Handelsblatt.com, CDU (conservative) member of parliament Ansgar Heveling attacked not just the internet, but a whole system of thought. The networked society, if you will. The article is pure link bait, or a display of incredibly obvious lack of understanding, and a pretty cheap political stunt. It pretty much deserves to be ignored. I’m going to fall for it, if only for one reason: It directly contradicts a fantastic book I’m just reading, and so I can’t just let it hang there.

Here’s what Mr Heveling writes in his wisdom knowledge ignorant opinion piece:

Doch Googles und Wikimedias dieser Welt, lasst euch zurufen: Auch wenn Wikipedia für einen Tag ausgeschaltet ist und Google Zensurbalken trägt, ist das nicht das Ende des Wissens der Menschheit. Welche Hybris! Lasst euch gesagt sein: Das Wissen und vor allem die Weisheit der Welt liegen immer noch in den Köpfen der Menschen

Rough translation:

However, Googles and Wikimedias of the world, let me shout out to you: Even if Wikipedia is switched off for a day and Google shows a censorship bar, this isn’t The End of Mankind’s Knowledge. The hubris! Let me tell you: The knowledge and particularly the wisdom of the world is still inside the heads of humans.

Well, Mr Heveling, funny you’d say that. Allow me to just quote David Weinberger back at you, who understands more of this topic than you and I, and – very much unlike you – has facts to back this up:

We have a new form of knowing. This new knowledge requires not just giant computers but a network to connect them, to feed them, and to make their work accessible. It exists at the network level, not in the heads of individual human beings.

You can read up on how knowledge works now and in the future in Mr Weinberger’s new book. And you should. I’ll even include a link to the German Amazon store just for you.