Tuesday, March 26, 2013

On the internet we're carving out meaning, not assembling it

How does the Internet change the way you think? was John Brockman's question for the members of philosophical society of science writers at Edge.org. 
I just read through most of the 150 replies, and one in particular stands out for it's poetic way of expressing a core concept very briefly. The essay by George Dyson titled "Kayaks vs. Canoes". 
 I'm taking the liberty of quoting here in full. 

But you can see it among all the other responses at the Annual Question site
Here's George Dyson: 
In the North Pacific ocean, there were two approaches to boatbuilding. The Aleuts (and their kayak-building relatives) lived on barren, treeless islands and built their vessels by piecing together skeletal frameworks from fragments of beach-combed wood. The Tlingit (and their dugout canoe-building relatives) built their vessels by selecting entire trees out of the rainforest and removing wood until there was nothing left but a canoe.
The Aleut and the Tlingit achieved similar results — maximum boat / minimum material— by opposite means. The flood of information unleashed by the Internet has produced a similar cultural split. We used to be kayak builders, collecting all available fragments of information to assemble the framework that kept us afloat. Now, we have to learn to become dugout-canoe builders, discarding unneccessary information to reveal the shape of knowledge hidden within.
I was a hardened kayak builder, trained to collect every available stick. I resent having to learn the new skills. But those who don't will be left paddling logs, not canoes.

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