Tuesday, March 25, 2014

No one should end his learning while he lives

We are living in 1937 and our universities, I suggest, are not half-way out of the fifteenth century. We have made hardly any changes in our conception of university organisation, education, graduation, for a century — for several centuries. The three- or four-years' course of lectures, the bachelor who knows some, the master who knows most, the doctor who knows all, are ideas that have come down unimpaired from the Middle Ages. Nowadays no one should end his learning while he lives and these university degrees are preposterous. It is true that we have multiplied universities greatly in the past hundred years, but we seem to have multiplied them altogether too much upon the old pattern. A new battleship, a new aeroplane, a new radio receiver is always an improvement upon its predecessor. But a new university is just another imitation of all the old universities that have ever been. Educationally we are still for all practical purposes in the coach and horse and galley stage.
— from World Brain, by H.G. Wells.

In this collection of essays, Wells envisions a massive, digitized, permanent World Encyclopedia, accessible to everyone. In 2004, Google announced that it had the same idea. Sort of.

Google and the World Brain is being screened tonight in Montreal.

I'm not able to attend, so I poked around a little and it turns out the film is readily available for viewing online. (But don't tell anyone. Pretty sure it's an infringement of copyright.)

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