What information is valuable? How is this value determined? What is the longevity of the value and the information itself? How is
Many searches seem to operate by popularity or on the cleverness of the owner of the information. In other words, what is important is determined by the popular vote of the masses or by the entity that wants us to consume their information. This method for generating the top hits on queries may allow some of the most interesting and, perhaps, the most relevant and accurate information out of reach for most of us.
Much of innovation and leaps forward in discovery come at the margins, things that seems insignificant at the time or that, in the original context, boring. What would happen if key fringe information was ignored because of a low popularity score and faded away as time passed?
J.J. Thomson, who is credited with the discovery the electron in 1897 and won the Nobel Prize in 1906 for this contribution to science, was said to have the following quote on the wall of his lab: “To the electron: may it never be of any use!” He could not have imagined what would come of his discovery and the places others would take us using the electron as the foundation.
Is there a way we can program a search for sagacity or to promote serendipity? Some have suggested creating customizable searches, e.g. we set the parameters of importance to determine the distribution of the information and associations returned. Others have suggested that we increase our capacity for human connections, which could both narrow and broaden the scope of information or associations returned. Can artificial intelligence help us create the optimum digital search and association platform?
I am still uncomfortable with the 100% digital repository and our reliance on the digital search. I find it difficult to imagine the value of digital only in the absence of real-time, interaction with the creativity of another person or group of people. We gain so much from cues that are not easily replicated in a digital environment. I can also imagine natural disasters or something like a “zombie apocolypse” when electricity and related resources are absent. In these cases, where and how would we get our information, a local scale? What information would be lost and require a complete rediscovery? Am I alarmist?