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Argument: Technology enables the creation of superior knowledge

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Technology allows for the superior presentation of statistics, big ideas, and knowledge

  • Paulo Lima (online debater). Economist Debate Series. October 19, 2007 - "According to Bernard Shaw, 'the sign of a truly educated man is to be deeply moved by statistics'. So, it seems that technology does add to the quality of education. But I can't help the feeling that it is used in an inadequate way. It cannot be just a new tool, it has to bundle and deliver a new idea, a new concept. And the most important thing for those who learn is to grasp the concept that underlies an idea, a theory or a hypothesis."

Wikis and the "wisdom of the crowd" can facilitate superior knowledge-creation

Wikipedia is an example of a technology that allows not simply for the linking out to existing knowledge resources, but for the actual "adding of value" to the existing pool of knowledge. While heavily debated, the value of Wikipedia as a knowledge resource is enormous. This knowledge resource could not exist without the open-source wiki technology developed by Ward Cunningham and facilitated, in Wikipedia's case, by MediaWiki software.

Wikipedia demonstrates that technology should not be seen simply as a tool to access existing bodies of knowledge (such as the text of books or articles in the Economist), but that it actually becomes fundamentally intertwined with the development of new, possibly superior, knowledge. Technology enables democratic, open, and widespread participation and co-creation on a scale that has never been seen in history. On a wiki, text is open to the world to edit. This is a fundamental change in the way knowledge is created and thus a change in knowledge itself; it is not simply a change in the way knowledge is accessed.

The primary counter-argument here is that, while wikis may allow for knowledge creation in new ways, these new methods are leading to lesser quality knowledge. While its own major debate, it would appear, in Wikipedia's example, that the "wisdom of the crowd" over wikis produces superior knowledge. The case for Wikipedia rests in a simple comparison of it with Britannica (the only fair benchmark comparison of "wisdom of the crowd" versus expert knowledge creation). Wikipedia is much more extensive than Britannica, containing roughly 2 million articles in English in 2007 that, on average, are all much more extensive and detailed than articles in Britannica, and incredibly important factor in "knowledge" (timeliness, conventional-wisdom-changes, relevance...). They are also constantly updated, never being out of date like Britannica articles. On accuracy, a 2005 Nature magazine article did a head-to-head comparison finding an average rate of mistakes per article being 4 for Wikipedia and 3 for Britannica. This demonstrates a rough equivilancy in scholarly accuracy, and it is presumable that Wikipedia has improved since 2005 on this account. With these many factors under consideration, it would seem fair to conclude that Wikipedia is a superior source of knowledge over encyclopedia Britannica. Not to mention, it is obviously accessible to the world, instead of only to those that can afford it.

Debatepedia improves individual deliberations, the strength of conclusions, and thus knowledge itself

Knowledge is not simply in line-by-line readings of information, but in the way information is presented and thus learned in the mind and turned into actionable knowledge. Debatepedia's logic tree split screen method is a way to organize often extremely complicated debates into a structure that is more manageable for thinkers to weigh information and draw conclusions. By presumably simplifying the process of deliberation, Debatepedia actually improves the ability of individuals to act on information. Is this not a superior kind of knowledge? Knowledge is not simply scatter-brained information, but probably closer to the ability to take information and act upon it in some valuable way. In this sense, the technology of Debatepedia is actually becoming a part of knowledge itself, rather than acting simply as a conduit to knowledge that is out there some where else in the world.


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