How is the internet like building a boat?

 Photo: Alan Vernon
Olivia Scheck at 3quarksdaily looks at the answers to the 2010 Edge question: “How is the internet changing the way you think?”
She thinks science historian George Dyson may have put it best in his reply. He compares modern web surfers to indigenous North Pacific boat builders.
“In the North Pacific ocean,” Dyson explains, “there were two approaches to boatbuilding” – the approach used by the Aleuts, who pieced their boats together using fragments of beach-combed wood, and the approach used by the Tlingit, who carved each vessel out of a single, dugout tree.
The two methods yielded similar results, Dyson tells us, each group employing the minimum allotment of available resources. However, they did so by opposite means.
“The flood of information unleashed by the Internet has produced a similar cultural split,” Dyson argues. “We used to be kayak builders, collecting all available fragments of information to assemble the framework that kept us afloat. Now, we have to learn to become dugout-canoe builders, discarding unnecessary information to reveal the shape of knowledge hidden within.”
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