Thursday, August 9, 2007

A Knowledge Space or a Borgian World?

Over the last several days I've begun to read the work of anthropologist Pierre Levy. In some ways his overall views about a future emphasizing collective intelligence seems to echo some of Teilhard's noosphere concept. Until I read his fleshing out of what such a world might be like, it never occurred to me that part of what would be involved would be inventing another way of communicating that was beyond writing but it makes sense. Just as writing, and then the printing press, moved us away from oral communication of knowledge to a communication of knowledge that could happen even when the communicator wasn't physically present (although with the loss of accompanying gestures and tones), so the current evolution of knowledge will produce new tools and ways of communicating that will replace the written word as the major form of communication.

At times the world that Levy describes sounds wonderful and exciting. (He's clearly a real optimist about cyberspace--the exact opposite of the world Gibson develops in Neuromancer.) At other times, it seems to have a concept of collective knowledge that might have a shadow side that's much like the Borg collective. Both aspects seem present, for example, in this quote that's from early in Levy's Collective Intelligence:

“Either we cross a new threshold, enter a new stage of hominization, by inventing some human attribute that is as essential as language but operates at a much higher level, or we continue to “communicate” through the media and think within the context of separate institutions, which contribute to the suffocation and division of intelligence. In the latter case we will no longer be confronted only by problems of power and survival. But if we are committed to the process of collective intelligence, we will gradually create the technologies, sign systems, forms of social organization and regulation that enable us to think as a group, concentrate our intellectual and spiritual forces, and negotiate practical real-time solutions to the complex problems we must inevitably confront.”

On a different note, today's New York Times has an interesting article on real estate in Second Life. Check it out:

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