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Age of External Knowledge

I’ve stated (many) times that the most significant impact of the internet is the externalization (capturing and recording…and then making available for future analysis) of all aspects of our lives. How much do we need to commit to memory when we can search Google? What does it mean to “know” something today? To have it in our heads? Or to have it at our fingertips? I argue that to know means to be positioned in a network in such a way as to have ready access to what we need in varying contexts. NY Times suggests that we are now in the age of external knowledge and quotes from an Edge article: “Knowledge was once an internal property of a person, and focus on the task at hand could be imposed externally, but with the Internet, knowledge can be supplied externally, but focus must be forced internally.”
Small point that needs clarification – and this short article doesn’t provide it: when I externalize something, it’s information. When someone connects it in some manner, it becomes knowledge. Knowledge is essentially relatedness/connectedness.


  1. ken long wrote:

    more important than the facts-on-hand, are the questions-in-mind which condition us to be alert to the answers we need.

    if there is a limit on cognitive space, then best is to have the right questions in mind

    Wednesday, January 20, 2010 at 7:11 pm | Permalink
  2. Jacques wrote:

    Re. “…when I externalize something, it’s information. When someone connects it in some manner, it becomes knowledge. Knowledge is essentially relatedness/connectedness.”

    —- Someone just asked me: If information is to pass to a state of knowledge, mustn’t it be first verified, certified, validated? Funny how Wikipedia was my first image to come to mind when I read this…

    Thursday, January 21, 2010 at 10:42 am | Permalink
  3. Interesting notion, George. I like how the emergence of current technology and all its after effects (increased networks, communications, visual displays, etc) affect our perceptions and need for knowledge. This is good… change is good. I find the notion exciting to ponder and perhaps push the envelope.

    However, what about wisdom? Is that not accumulated and internalized knowledge? I don’t suspect one could find wisdom or expertise online, but rather create it through experience and time (with some part supported by technology use). Therefore, I assume in your post you are referring to basic facts when you suggest we can find the knowledge we need through networks. Or find new ideas. Am I reading that right?

    Thursday, January 21, 2010 at 12:14 pm | Permalink
  4. DolorsCapdet wrote:

    Not all information becomes knowledge.

    Only is anchor in our brains the information that we do not know and we find it relevant. The rest, simply we discard it.

    However, if this information is consolidated, establishes internal relations needed to create a pattern or model that improves prediction of what might happen next and, therefore, facilitates decision-making. This is what Tufte, 1997, calls Knowledge.

    The ability to recognize and manage the largest number of these patterns and models of knowledge would be wisdom.

    Thursday, January 21, 2010 at 5:28 pm | Permalink

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