Wikipedia and the Democratization of Knowledge

The democratization of knowledge; I just googled the term to remind me of the definition, and Wikipedia was there like a knight in shining armor.  The spread of knowledge is ultimately not a problem in my eyes. I believe that societal progress occurs through knowledge, what’s wrong with more smart people, really? But I know we were talking about Wikipedia in class, which is a debatably accurate source.

So Wikipedia doesn’t need to say that it’s all true, it is implied. Why shouldn’t it be true? Well, maybe those that are editing it don’t actually know what they’re talking about, or trolling. As our text stated, Wikipedia had more major errors than Encyclopedia Britannica. I didn’t even know EB articles were free online. But even those had mistakes. For all I know, the experts who called out mistakes may be proven wrong in the future. I think some errors can easy be classified as careless (the bird is blue, not red). But dammit if a color-blind guy doesn’t come forward with a B.A. in studio art and  name a new color just for birds. There are a lot of fallacies here (no, I don’t know the names of them), but say with history, we don’t know if York from Lewis & Clark’s expedition, was ever freed or later rewarded for his efforts. We might find documents in the future telling us something, but until then, we’re going to say what we know. And on his Wikipedia page, it is said that they don’t know. That’s pretty good for much-hated Wikipedia, stating that we as a whole world population, don’t know something and we are not claiming to know it. Maybe we have other things wrong on that page though. I think amateurs listing the possibilities of fact and not assuming one true is one of the best possible outcomes of Wikipedia.

And what’s true knowledge? Probably the most recent fact-checked work that answers more questions than the last bit of knowledge. And right underneath in small letters it says subject to change. I like the idea of laypersons learning, and if they all come together on Wikipedia to write an article on Rocketplane Kistler, I’m going to say with a little bit of certainty that I’m better off having read it than not. How do I know it’s accurate? I don’t, I have blind faith in the matter. But experts can’t be incentivized to produce all of their writings for free. That’s where I think Wiki often comes in, taking bits and pieces and summarizing books nicely while having convenient little sources at the bottom of the page.  What rewards do Wiki editors get out of contributing? I don’t know, but good for them. I don’t like the idea of ridding the world of experts, but only because we know that there is more to anything than its Wikipedia page. But getting rid of experts? Is that really ever going to happen? What will be our professions? Show me an expert in everything and I’ll believe that we won’t need experts. Tell me, can the human brain handle that much? Being a generalist to such a high caliber seems like something a machine can be, not us. The problem is that I don’t have enough time to read a book for every Wikipedia page. Experts (the nice ones) are here to expand our knowledge of things if we desire it. If the nature of knowledge is changing, I believe that it is for the better.

If knowledge is constantly in flux (even experts can get outdated), then why don’t we just view Wikipedia with a cautious eye? I think that’s what we do anyway, and here we’re just talking about it. Tell little kids not to believe everything they read/see/hear/touch/anything and Wikipedia can be what it should be, a site where people try to tell people things, hopefully correctly. Does Wikipedia eliminate the need for experts? Is a book on astrophysics going to be denied by the publisher because the Wiki page is their biggest competition? I ‘m of the opinion that the Wiki page doesn’t eat up those sales. I might say that it helps people get into the field so that they can later read that book! I know people have the chance to be wrong on Wikipedia. But take the internet away. Now they’re wrong in real life talking to you from across a lunch table. With the internet you just received the bad information faster than having to go to a lunch date. But tell if I’m wrong, didn’t you get some right information on the internet too? I don’t view Wiki as a data dump, the articles are short and easy to navigate. It’s just humanity trying to streamline massive books (not eliminating them) and piles of information. Books are still there and in my opinion not competing with Wikipedia. And if time isn’t a problem for you, then maybe you don’t need Wikipedia, and libraries are for you. I mean what are encyclopedias for anyway?

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