The need for mediators in the “age of information”

This article is interesting on three fronts.

First, I was just reading an article about the rise of MOOCs (massive open online courses) in the Chronicle of Higher Education, and this article from the New York Times opens with an anecdote about a 52-year-old who essentially acquired a degree in philosophy by taking advantage of the wealth of educational resources now available – for free – online.

Mr. Haber’s project embodies a modern miracle: the ease with which anyone can learn almost anything. Our ancient ancestors built the towering Library of Alexandria to gather all of the world’s knowledge, but today, smartphones turn every palm into a knowledge palace.

And yet, even as the highbrow holy grail — the acquisition of complete knowledge — seems tantalizingly close, almost nobody speaks about the rebirth of the Renaissance man or woman. The genius label may be applied with reckless abandon, even to chefs, basketball players and hair stylists, but the true polymaths such as Leonardo da Vinci and Benjamin Franklin seem like mythic figures of a bygone age.

They don’t make geniuses like they used to.

Also, this is cool:

Google estimated in 2010 that there were 300 exabytes (that’s 300 followed by 18 zeros) of human-created information in the world, and that more information was created every two days than had existed in the entire world from the dawn of time to 2003.

Also, didn’t the author of this piece realize that he finished his piece with a rallying cry for librarians?

For many who don’t share that kind of vision, the response to information overload is simple: Just search and forget (repeat as necessary). Even more ambitious absorbers of knowledge like Jonathan Haber will most likely find that the key to lifelong learning is a human mediator, someone who has engaged in the ancient task of searching and sorting through knowledge.

read thisCheck out In the Age of Information, Specializing to Survive in The New York Times.

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