Larry Sanger, Co-Founder of Wikipedia

Sanger is a bit more thoughtful than most “digital natives” as evidenced by his nuanced approaches, and his unfolding of Citizendium.com, a much more robust Wikipedia.  Sanger shares his thoughts in what is a kind of  what-hath-hell-wrought, ah-ha moment:

“To be well educated, to be able to pass along the liberal and rational values that undergird our civilization, we must as a culture retain our ability to comprehend long, difficult texts written by individuals.  Indeed, the single best method of getting a basic education is to read increasingly difficult and important books. . . .  getting acquainted with many books created by the ‘complex, dense’ minds of deep-thinking individuals [is indispensible]. . . . [Otherwise] in the place of a creative society with a reasonably deep well of liberally educated critical thinkers, we will have a society of drones, enculturated by hive minds, who are able to work together online but who are largely innocent of the texts and habits of study that encourage deep and independent thought.  We will be bound by the prejudices of our “digital tribe,” ripe for manipulation by whoever has the firmest grip on our dialogue.  I see all too much evidence that we are moving headlong in that direction.”

What I find most interesting about his comments is the realization that a) we will work together online but b) in a kind of hive-mentality.  It has never been my contention (or any of the other so-called Web critics) that the Web would cause us not to work together online, or create a kind of cultural stasis.  But what Sanger says better than I have is the world we will inherit may be one we’ll regret.  The downsize to this is that we are much farther along  this unpaved road than we realize.  Further, getting back will take much, much longer, too, if at all.  Add this to the news that Harvard is swallowing the gilded digital pill along with all the rest of the library drones and you have the makings of a real intellectual disaster as fully devastating as the environmental one ongoing in the Gulf.  All that remains to be seen is whether we’ll have the will to reassess our path, or merely continue along the our easy and less difficult road.

Full article is here: 

http://net.educause.edu/ir/library/pdf/ERM1020.pdf

(Hat tip, David Mash)

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