Saturday, January 8, 2011

The fountain of knowledge

The Ancient Library of Alexandria was one of the pinnacle achievements of human civilisation at the time of the birth of Christ. Knowledge is the cornerstone of human achievement and cataloging and storage of that knowledge is a singular feat . The library of Alexandria was, for that age and time, an unbelievable beacon of human endeavor. It is one of humankind's greatest tragedies that the library was burnt down by the Romans.

While libraries came and went since, the Encyclopedia Britannica arose as a store of much of the knowledge and wisdom that the human race accumulated. But, with the arrival of the internet, arose another phenomenon in that same illustrious league - Wikipedia.

Wikipedia is a singular human achievement, built cooperatively and freely, as a memorial to knowledge. That its free, that its ubiquitous, that it is accessible in so many languages, that it is constantly improved and bettered, is something that the wise men who built the library of Alexandria would entirely approve. I know that there are many who thumb their noses at Wikipedia. Amateurish, pop culture knowledge, full of errors, are all accusations I have heard. Sure, it isn't perfect. But as a direction to turn to for knowledge, its difficult to find anything remotely near.

Readers of this blog will know that this blogger is highly opinionated. Facebook and Twitter do not catch my fancy. But Wikipedia is a phenomenon that I humbly salute - it's one of the high points of human achievement on the internet.

A few years back, I was fortunate to be in Alexandria and to go to the modern library that has been built there in testimonial and commemoration of the great one that existed 2000 years ago. I was in awe as I entered its portals - I could almost hear the ghosts of Euclid, Archimedes, Heron, Eratosthenes, and all the other luminaries who studied in that library. Today , I am sure they would equally cheer and applaud the spirit of their successor, Wikipedia. It isn't in any place, it isn't inside any building, but in spirit, it carries on the great tradition that began all that long ago.

Happy Birthday young girl .

Wikipedia celebrates its tenth birthday this week.