Archive for the ‘knowledge’ Category

Intellectual technologies

July 14, 2009

Yesterday, serendipity brought me from my research on artificial intelligence to the expression “intellectual technologies”, quoted by Nicholas Carr in a recent article. Nicholas Carr explains that this expression was used by sociologist Daniel Bell to describe the tools we humans have developed to increase our mental abilities: reading, writing, calculation, to name only a few. Behaviorist approaches such as organization methods, communication and group interaction practices are other examples, I think.

These approaches have to be learnt. They may become a “second nature” but they are not instinctive, the way language is. We are not genetically designed to read, calculate or interact smoothly in groups.

Yet, it is striking to see that reading and writing have become so intricate in us that they seem quite natural, at least for those who were happy enough to get an education. (True, there is still work ahead before this applies to all people in all countries.)

What if technologies aiming at improving attitudes and social interaction were broadly taught in schools and colleges ?  Should not they be part of every graduate’s ABC ?

In my opinion, they should be a part of what everyone gets to learn at school. There is no doubt that studying books like “Getting things done” (David Allen), The Evolution of cooperation (Robert Axelrod) ou “How to win friends and influence people” (Dale Carnegie) would be as useful and beneficial as studying algebra and literature.

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Collaborative encyclopedias’ convergence ?

February 1, 2009

While Wikipedia continues to be the leader on the market of collaborative encyclopedias, it is no longer unchallenged. Other initiatives have emerged, like Citizendium and more recently Knol. In some ways, the fact that these new projects have been unable so far to compete significantly with Wikipedia is an additional clue that WP’s model is a success. Several reasons can explain why Wikipedia remains number one:

  • it can benefit from years of experience and content accumulation
  • it is very well indexed by Google
  • the media have covered Wikipedia extensively for years
  • Wikipedia is fun and enjoyable to use

In my opinion, the “fun factor” is the main reason why Wikipedia leads. No other project so far has managed to create the same excitement and sense of community. Yet, what I have found striking during the past few weeks is that the ideological divide between the various collaborative projects has shrunk . While Britannica has opened the door to user participation, Wikipedia is discussing the possibility of moderation on some articles edited by non-registered users (flagged revisions). The production and sharing of knowledge using wikis decidedly remains a very exciting subject. Larry Sanger’s recent post about this lists numerous areas of research on wiki knowledge and governance  and provides an interesting basis for discussion.