Sunday, 9 January 2011

The fountain of knowledge

The Ancient Library of Alexandria was one of the pinnacle achievements of human civilisation at the time of the birth of Christ. Knowledge is the cornerstone of human achievement and cataloging and storage of that knowledge is a singular feat . The library of Alexandria was, for that age and time, an unbelievable beacon of human endeavor. It is one of humankind's greatest tragedies that the library was burnt down by the Romans.

While libraries came and went since, the Encyclopedia Britannica arose as a store of much of the knowledge and wisdom that the human race accumulated. But, with the arrival of the internet, arose another phenomenon in that same illustrious league - Wikipedia.

Wikipedia is a singular human achievement, built cooperatively and freely, as a memorial to knowledge. That its free, that its ubiquitous, that it is accessible in so many languages, that it is constantly improved and bettered, is something that the wise men who built the library of Alexandria would entirely approve. I know that there are many who thumb their noses at Wikipedia. Amateurish, pop culture knowledge, full of errors, are all accusations I have heard. Sure, it isn't perfect. But as a direction to turn to for knowledge, its difficult to find anything remotely near.

Readers of this blog will know that this blogger is highly opinionated. Facebook and Twitter do not catch my fancy. But Wikipedia is a phenomenon that I humbly salute - it's one of the high points of human achievement on the internet.

A few years back, I was fortunate to be in Alexandria and to go to the modern library that has been built there in testimonial and commemoration of the great one that existed 2000 years ago. I was in awe as I entered its portals - I could almost hear the ghosts of Euclid, Archimedes, Heron, Eratosthenes, and all the other luminaries who studied in that library. Today , I am sure they would equally cheer and applaud the spirit of their successor, Wikipedia. It isn't in any place, it isn't inside any building, but in spirit, it carries on the great tradition that began all that long ago.

Happy Birthday young girl .

Wikipedia celebrates its tenth birthday this week.


Sandhya Sriram said...

when i was a kid, there used to be a one hour class a week allocated for library. we can read in the school library and pick up books to return next week. it used to be one of my most favourite session at that time. Starting from Noddy in 4th standard, moving on to enid blyton and completing all the perry mason by the time, i passed out.... i really used to love what my library had to offer

but today, there is no library culture. kids dont read at all. half the time, they are glued onto television or video games. abundance of entertainment has killed some very beautiful forms of entertainment.

I think, i have seviourly deviated from the topic. just the word library sent me down the memory lane.

coming back, Wiki is such a beautiful repository. i think the phenomena of information at your fingertips which the power of internet has created itself is such a wonderful thing.

but what is easily available is seldom valued. i think we need to make such things difficult to access to make people crave for it and value the source.

Happy Birthday Wiki

zeno said...

Will agree to all your comments, BTW why should it be a Girl???!
You are tempting and inspiring for another one ;)

Anonymous said...

girlish namela..athaan...had it been a guy,,wikipedian nnu name vachirupanngalla :)

Ramesh said...

@Sandhya - Yes - Library time has gone away now, but then information online like Wikipedia is not a bad substitute. An interesting thought about a freebie not being valuable. I think the exception is knowledge - don't think its valued any less if its free.

@Zeno - Girls are nicer; aren't the ??? Waiting to read your version of it !

@Gils - Haha ! That's why girls' names are much better than boys' !

J said...

Wikipedia is great especially for common stuff that we need to look up on a daily basis. For really specialized stuff - not sure. But even there, a friend mentioned that his professor in a top engineering department messed with some information as an example to the students that they should not rely on Wikipedia but apparently the stuff was removed within hours and the correct information reinstated. That was pretty impressive. I am also amazed at the people who spend the time to post information on Wikipedia.

RamMmm said...

My respect for Wikipedia is heightened because of its collaborative breadth of knowledge and the joy of perusal of the repository and also on its position that they wouldn't accept corporate donations as to not succumb to a chance to weaken their editorial integrity. Hail Wikipedia! (If there is an org to which I can close my eyes and donate, this is it)

Vishal said...

Highly respect your opinion, Ramesh! In fact, the whole internet has been one of the biggest evolutions over past two decades. I remember a post on this evolution by you earlier. And to top all this, if there are few outstanding people who keep Wikipedia posted with every bit of knowledge, this serves as an icing on the cake. Truly a great achievement!

Btw, facebook and twitter are no less in terms of evolution and acceptibility, although from a different perspective.

Ramesh said...

@J - Yes indeed, the people who volunteer and update are to be commended. Would love to kick the Prof who messed around in the butt !!

@RamMmm - Amen

@Vishal - Very true. There are many facets of the internet revolution, of course. Its just that for me, Wikipedia stands at the very top. For others, it may be different, and rightfully so.

Anonymous said...

On the dot,Sir! Agree with you. Have always wondered how much of passion and committment should have gone into evolving something like this.

raghavendra kotla said...

Hi Ramesh, I can’t agree more. It became almost a standard resource for web-savvy internet users. The beauty of this young girl is, she holds information on everything on earth. When I learnt it is largely maintained by volunteers without pay, I was very much surprised. At least once a day I can say thanks to Jimmy Wales.

Anonymous said...

I too love this young girl.Can't agree more with Rammmm.From vadai poche to vancover,you get it under one roof.Such a lovely gal she is.

Ramesh said...

@Hema - Yes, we often underestimate the passion people are capabable of creating

@Kotla - Thanks to Jimmy Wales, but also to all the volunteers.

@ambulisamma - Yes, everything under the sun. The spread of the encyclopedia takes your breath away.

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