Critical issues presentations/Is there a Sum of Knowledge to give everyone access to ?

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Submission no. 88
Title of the submission

Is there a Sum of Knowledge to give everyone access to ?

Author of the submission
  • Derek
  • Maarten
Country of origin

Belgium; Belgium


Outreach, Policy, Research

  • Wikipedia
  • Encyclopeadism
  • knowledge
  • responsibility
  • community
  • "sum of all knowledge"
  • gathering
  • "universal memory"

Wikipedia is 15 years old, 37 Mn entries, 20 Mn page-views an hour does come with responsibility, the volunteers have done a tremendous amount of work, now we should wake up to our responsibilities.

As of this fifteenth anniversary, 28 percent of the those alive today have never known a world without Wikipedia. While much of the internet has evolved into a private space, Wikipedia serves everyone on Earth, of all backgrounds and ages. Which is one side of the Wiki-mouvement coin : Wikipedia by the vision expressed in the well know quote of Jimmy Wales advocated to give all people access to the sum of all knowledge, now has come the time to put the effort where our mouth was : making sure there is knowledge to access.

Jimmy Wales asked for a quote for our 15th anniversary said “ Wikipedia challenged us to rethink how knowledge can be gathered and shared”, we did show “in a radical way that talent can be found quite broadly”. Is that enough? .

Are the five pillars of Wikipedia still holding the roof or do they stand in our way of realizing our goal to gather the sum of all knowledge

In Europe and the Western industrialised world, during the latter 500+ years since the Renaissance and since the advent of printing the written records have become the prime source of knowledge gathering, dissemination and education. Before the AV media if information wasn't printed it was doubted, before the internet if it wasn't on television is was doubted , now if it's not on the internet the validity of the information is being doubted. In the process a lot of the aurally transmitted knowledge and traditions have been lost forever in the mists of oblivion.

What means Universal Memory, meaning of “encyclopeadism”, why should it affect the Wiki-mouvement , what is Wiki responsibility

Should we rethink our 5 pillars or would a different view of what the pillars mean suffice?

Just like animals and plants in the biosphere, Knowledge can become extinct in the culturosphere. Not because that knowledge is inaccurate or obsolete but merely because it hasn't been written down.

In the medical world, for instance,  the knowledge about herbal medicine has dwindled so far that in practise it has become extinct, except in the kitchen. Now pharmaceutical companies are working on chemical compounds ignoring redoing research into herbs :  medication that nature provides, because the knowledge has evaporated, and is not being recorded in a written manner...

Often countries with a large aurally transmitted culture and complex traditions are in dire need to record that culture : recording local language, speech, stories, costumes, masks, weapons, dances and ceremonies, and stories that reveal the meaning of those traditions. Digital media allow for cheap and quality recordings of audio, sound, visual (still and moving) images of those traditional cultural items.

Wikipedia is fast becoming the custodian of Universal memory, and we need to adapt our “community culture”, long held beliefs about what encompasses the “encyclopedic knowledge” has shifted and will change and the Wiki-community is not moving with that evolution.


Not accepted