Saturday, June 05, 2010

The Internet Makes Us Smarter "To take a famous example, the essential insight of the scientific revolution was peer review, the idea that science was a collaborative effort that included the feedback and participation of others. Peer review was a cultural institution that took the printing press for granted as a means of distributing research quickly and widely, but added the kind of cultural constraints that made it valuable.

We are living through a similar explosion of publishing capability today, where digital media link over a billion people into the same network. This linking together in turn lets us tap our cognitive surplus, the trillion hours a year of free time the educated population of the planet has to spend doing things they care about. In the 20th century, the bulk of that time was spent watching television, but our cognitive surplus is so enormous that diverting even a tiny fraction of time from consumption to participation can create enormous positive effects.

Wikipedia took the idea of peer review and applied it to volunteers on a global scale, becoming the most important English reference work in less than 10 years. Yet the cumulative time devoted to creating Wikipedia, something like 100 million hours of human thought, is expended by Americans every weekend, just watching ads. It only takes a fractional shift in the direction of participation to create remarkable new educational resources.

Individuals working together on an individual level without the constraints of distance and travel time is a revolution in human history.
Like the automobile, the telephone and the printing press, the Internet has empowered the individual to maximize his or her abilities.
When the power of individuals in unleashed, each and every one of us benefits. Not just because we are more free then before, but because we reap the splendid harvest of human actions by those around us.

The future is still bright, not because of any hope offered government, but because people are more capable then ever before of using their God-Given abilities to the greatest extent possible.

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