Posted in Blog Archive

Posted by abeodbart March 30, 2011 at 10:54 am


DISCOVERY NEWS: “Like a nerdier Nostradamus, H.G. Wells practically predicted the Internet in his 1937 essay “World Brain: The Idea of a Permanent World Encyclopedia.”

In it, Wells describes this futuristic encyclopedia (made possible in his mind by revolutionary microfilm) as a “world organ to ‘pull the mind of the world together,’ which will be not so much a rival to the universities, as a supplementary and coordinating addition to their educational activities — on a planetary scale.”

And in many ways, Wells’ vision has been realized by the Internet. Digital archives scattered among servers around the world house innumerable books, documents, records, photographs and films that collectively represent an outpouring of human knowledge.

“That (H.G. Wells) essay collection is utopian, but really, if you look at what we’re all trying to do, this idea of a permanent world encyclopedia that he has, it’s really a template for what’s happening,” said Paul Jones, director of the digital archive and associate professor of information science at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill.

“The real question is can that ever be accomplished, and the answer is ‘no’ — but why not try?” Jones told Discovery News.

For the past 18 years, Jones and others working with Ibiblio have been digitally preserving collections as well as “vernacular work,” which are freely accessible works in the public domain. A well-known example of vernacular work is the collection of songs composed by Roger McGuinn, former leader of The Byrds, which he’s published under a Creative Commons shared licensing agreement.

Although establishing digital libraries depends on server space, real tug-of-war over how many knowledge works (books, recordings, other documents) will end up accessible online happens between librarians and lawyers.

Why? One word: copyright.

“One of the primary roadblocks (to expanding digital libraries) is copyright,” said Maura Marx, a fellow at the Harvard Berkman Center and lead organizer of its Digital Public Library of America initiative. “Its one-size-fits-all nature locks up all works as if they will remain commercially viable for extended periods of time. Not everything is “Harry Potter” — there is no provision, for example, for circulation of scholarly works after an initial period of commercial distribution, or for any other deviation from locking things up for life, plus 70 years.””

Read more at Discovery News (Thanks Annette M)

March 30, 2011 at 12:21 pm
Kat says:

And Douglas Adams predicted the iPhone :)

March 30, 2011 at 12:56 pm

I don’t think storage capacity would be a problem. I estimated that available storage will always be 8-10 times of human knowledge (10EB) and at least 100 times of used storage. However due to copyright, privacy laws and government sponsored censorship we don’t have operational capacity to store everything we know, see:

March 30, 2011 at 1:02 pm
patrick says:

It is brilliant and almost as wondrous as the cosmos…
the trouble is – that knowledge makes up only 30% of the internet – the rest is filled up with anti-knowledge, or dark reading matter..;-)

March 30, 2011 at 2:30 pm
roz says:

not yet…they dunno what i know…

March 30, 2011 at 6:37 pm
Owen says:

We all of one mind it’s just the realisation of a shared consciousness that’s holding us back from our beautiful future,
1 planet,
1 love,
1 destiny.

March 30, 2011 at 8:58 pm
Mark says:

Is possible but I highly doubt everything is there.

March 31, 2011 at 2:18 pm
alan says:

“The real question is can that ever be accomplished, and the answer is ‘no’”
Based on our current understanding of what is possible, presumably. But as Wells himself appreciated, we have no idea concerning what we will know or feel tomorrow. Let alone the day after tomorrow. One tomorrow may see us all connected directly into the interweb. Permitting the bidirectional flow of information and infinitely differing interpretations of that data to be accessed and grown-on. Copyright may then seem as archaic an idea, as paying royalties to whoever invented the wheel.

April 1, 2011 at 3:16 pm
Phil says:

Screw wells. Verne predicted the internet and showed infinitely more prescience than wells (basically blind compared to Verne).

April 2, 2011 at 1:12 pm
Alan C says:

It can’t possibly have all the human knowledge on the internet, like it isn’t anywhere that I have just eaten two pieces of delicious Nigella Lawson inspired french toast.

April 2, 2011 at 1:12 pm
Alan C says:

Oh damn it does now!!


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