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The Stupidity of Computers
The good news is that, because computers cannot and will not “understand” us the way we understand each other, they will not be able to take over the world and enslave us (at least not for a while). The bad news is that, because computers cannot come to us and meet us in our world, we must continue to adjust our world and bring ourselves to them. We will define and regiment our lives, including our social lives and our perceptions of our selves, in ways that are conducive to what a computer can “understand.” Their dumbness will become ours.
This week’s episode is super cool. We got David Lankes, a professor of information studies at Syracuse University (also known as the world’s best public speaker), to talk to us about libraries. We thought we’d have a grand debate on the topic of libraries and electronic media, but what we actually had was a wide-ranging discussion about knowledge and access to knowledge. We’re wicked happy that we got such a great guy on our show, and we’ll happily have him back on any time his little heart desires!
This grand challenge would require librarians, information scientists, telecommunication experts and specialists on space flight. The lessons learned could be applied to earth-bound libraries and could re-envision how libraries are connected to each other and to the resources that they use. It could also impact other industries and how they communicate or share information. The work could place libraries and librarians front and center in a number of communities because we would need to be involved in creating the solution.
The library in 2020 is the last bastion of truth. Sure, you can search yottabytes of free data by simply batting an eyelash. But it's dangerous to believe what you see through the iGlass lens. As you learned the hard way back in the Facebook era, if you're not paying for it, you are the product. That research study about the safety and efficacy of Lipitor Lollipops™ was sponsored by a subsidiary of a subsidiary of Pfizer. That consultant you almost hired wrote his own customer reviews. And while you can't tell for sure because the algorithms are opaque, it sure seems like the first page of web search is pay-to-play. You routinely skip past the top ten results.
David Lee King with an interesting question, what do we think is important? Do our users agree?
Think about some of these things libraries have, for example:
-Library Catalog – interesting to our customers?
-Article Databases – interesting to our customers?
-Periodicals reading room …
-Reference desk …
I think our goal should be two-fold:
1.spend time, money, and expertise on stuff our customers care about
2.do stuff that our customers care about
Jill Hurst-Wahl: "At this lunch event, I would like to gather as many of this organization's employees as possible. Then I would like invite two students for each employee. (So twice as many students as employees.) Why? Students are used to thinking creatively and I want to "up" the creative thinking in the room, but not totally overwhelm this organization's employees."
Everyone knows that the flow of information is complex and tangled in society today -- so thank goodness for copyright law! Truly, no part of our national policy is as coherent, in the interest of the public or as updated for the Internet age as that gleaming tome in the US Code.
But one MIT economist, who recently presented his work recently at Wikimania, has found a way to test how the copyright law affects one online community -- Wikipedia -- and how digitized, public domain works dramatically affect the quality of knowledge.
Considering how long Facebook dragged its feet to get into mobile in the first place, the data suggests they will be exactly as slow to change as Google was to social. Does the Instagram acquisition change that? Not really, in my view. It shows they’re really fearful of being displaced by a mobile upstart. However, why would bolting on a mobile app to a Web 2.0 platform (and a very good one at that) change any of the underlying dynamics we’re discussing here? I doubt it.
Libraries are Obsolete
The real retort to the deficit argument that libraries are obsolete is not to find new and bigger problems, but to focus on (or at the VERY least include) aspirational arguments for libraries.
"Libraries as band aids may be obsolete, but that is not why we need libraries. We need libraries so we can fix our education system, so we can fix our economy, so we can fix our democracies yes. But we need libraries even more to discover new knowledge not found in any textbook. We need libraries to create whole new opportunities for innovation. We need libraries to give our communities a voice and power in the working of government. Libraries will never be obsolete so long as our communities dream, and strive, and work to ensure a world of insurmountable opportunities."