Too big to know - David Weinberger (Basic Books, Usa, 2012)

In this title, a leading philosopher of the internet explains how knowledge and expertise can still work - and even grow stronger - in an age when the internet has made topics simply Too Big to Know. Knowing used to be so straightforward. If we wanted to know something we looked it up, asked an expert, gathered the facts, weighted the possibilities, and honed in on the best answer ourselves. But, ironically, with the advent of the internet and the limitless information it contains, we're less sure about what we know, who knows what, or even what it means to know at all. Knowledge, it would appear, is in crisis. And yet, while its very foundations seem to be collapsing, human knowledge has grown in previously unimaginable ways, and in inconceivable directions, in the Internet age. We fact-check the news media more closely and publicly than ever before. Science is advancing at an unheard of pace thanks to new collaborative techniques and new ways to find patterns in vast amounts of data. Businesses are finding expertise in every corner of their organization, and across the broad swath of their stakeholders. We are in a crisis of knowledge at the same time that we are in an epochal exaltation of knowledge. In "Too Big to Know", Internet philosopher David Weinberger explains that, rather than a systemic collapse, the Internet era represents a fundamental change in the methods we have for understanding the world around us. Weinberger argues that our notions of expertise - what it is, how it works, and how it is cultivated - are out of date, rooted in our pre-networked culture and assumptions. For thousands of years, we've relied upon a reductionist process of filtering, winnowing, and otherwise reducing the complex world to something more manageable in order to understand it. Back then, an expert was someone who had mastered a particular, well-defined domain. Now, we live in an age when topics are blown apart and stitched together by momentary interests, diverse points of view, and connections ranging from the insightful to the perverse. Weinberger shows that, while the limits of our own paper-based tools have historically prevented us from achieving our full capacity of knowledge, we can now be as smart as our new medium allows - but we will be smart differently. For the new medium is a network, and that network changes our oldest, most basic strategy of knowing. Rather than knowing-by-reducing, we are now knowing-by-including. Indeed, knowledge now is best thought of not as the content of books or even of minds, but as the way the network works. Knowledge will never be the same - not for science, not for business, not for education, not for government, not for any of us. As Weinberger makes clear, to make sense of this new system of knowledge, we need - and smart companies are developing - networks that are themselves experts. Full of rich and sometimes surprising examples from history, politics, business, philosophy, and science, "Too Big to Know" describes how the very foundations of knowledge have been overturned, and what this revolution means for our future.
Marc Benioff, chairman, CEO salesforce.com, bestselling author of "Behind the Cloud"
"Led by the Internet, knowledge is now social, mobile, and open. Weinberger shows how to unlock the benefits."
John Seely Brown, co-author of "The Social Life of Information" and "A New Culture of Learning" ""Too Big to Know" is a stunning and profound book on how our concept of knowledge is changing in the age of the Net. It honors the traditional social practices of knowing, where genres stay fixed, and provides a graceful way of understanding new strategies for knowing in today's rapidly evolving, networked world. I couldn't put this book down. It is a true tour-de-force written in a delightful way." Daniel H. Pink, author of "Drive" and "A Whole New Mind""With this insightful book, David Weinberger cements his status as one of the most important thinkers of the digital age. If you want to understand what it means to live in a world awash in information, "Too Big to Know" is the guide you'

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Read excerpt Too big to know but not understand

David Weinberger: What the Internet Means for How We Think about The World

In this time of easy access to information, experts, and news, the last thing you would expect is that we are in the midst of a crisis in knowledge. But sometimes it seems that we, in fact, are, says Internet theorist David Weinberger.
How's that? Weinberger says that on the day he sat down to write the prologue to his new book, Too Big to Know, three of the six front-page New York Times stories -- about topics as diverse as the Gulf oil spill, John Updike's archive, and soccer players who fake injury -- could have carried the subhead, "Knowledge in Crisis!" On the face of it, these stories do not seem to be about knowledge in any way, or even to be connected at all. But Weinberger says that at their core these stories are all about questions of how we store, organize, find, and apply knowledge -- questions that are changing rapidly as knowledge is increasingly stored not in paper or people's minds, but online.
I asked Weinberger a few questions about his new book, how the Internet is changing knowledge, and, in turn, how it is changing us.

In your book, you argue that we are in a new age of "networked knowledge," meaning that knowledge -- ideas, information, wisdom even -- has broken out of its physical confines (the pages of a book or the mind of a person) and now exists in a hyperconnected online state. You say that this new structure "feels more natural because the old ideals of knowledge were never realistic." In what ways does it feel more natural? What were these old ideals of knowledge and in what ways were they unnatural?
We've known for a long time that there was more going on in the world than our libraries could contain or our media could show us. We've known that experts are not as reliable as they often were made out to be. We've known that world is less ready and able to come to rational agreement than we'd been promised. We've known much of our codified knowledge is less than perfectly unreliable. We've known that the topical domains into which we divide knowledge so we can master them are not nearly as separate as their shelves in the library indicate. We've known that we're little creatures in a universe vast beyond our ability to exaggerate.
Yet the short version of the history of knowledge goes something like: Plato defines knowledge as justified true belief. We then gradually increase the criteria of justification until knowledge has to pass a very high bar indeed. Knowledge comes to be that which we can know with certainty, what is settled and beyond reasonable dispute. Yet, there is one basic fact about us human beings: We are profoundly fallible. We've known since the dawn of civilization that we basically get everything wrong and then die. The demand for certainty and clarity placed on creatures who recognize their own uncertainty is, in some sense, unnatural.
I think the Net generation is beginning to see knowledge in a way that is closer to the truth about knowledge -- a truth we've long known but couldn't instantiate. My generation, and the many generations before mine, have thought about knowledge as being the collected set of trusted content, typically expressed in libraries full of books. Our tradition has taken the trans-generational project of building this Library of Knowledge book by book as our God-given task as humans. Yet, for the coming generation, knowing looks less like capturing truths in books than engaging in never-settled networks of discussion and argument. That social activity -- collaborative and contentious, often at the same time -- is a more accurate reflection of our condition as imperfect social creatures trying to understand a world that is too big and too complex for even the biggest-headed expert.
This new topology of knowledge reflects the topology of the Net. The Net (and especially the Web) is constructed quite literally out of links, each of which expresses some human interest. If I link to a site, it's because I think it matters in some way, and I want it to matter that way to you. The result is a World Wide Web with billions of pages and probably trillions of links that is a direct reflection of what matters to us humans, for better or worse. The knowledge networks that live in this new ecosystem share in that property; they are built out of, and reflect, human interest. Like our collective interests, the Web and the knowledge that resides there is at odds and linked in conversation. That's why the Internet, for all its weirdness, feels so familiar and comfortable to so many of us. And that's the sense in which I think networked knowledge is more "natural."
Read the complete interview on The Atlantic website