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Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Organizational and Collaborative Learning

"These being the dangers in the process of human reason, the remedies of them all can only proceed from the real, the mechanical, the experimental philosophy, which has this advantage over the philosophy of discourse and disputation, that whereas that chiefly aims at the subtlety of its deductions and conclusions, without much regard to the first groundwork, which ought to be well laid on the sense and memory, so this intends the right ordering of them all and the making them serviceable to each other." (Robert Locke; from "The Preface")

This quote from one of the early members of the Royal Society and the New Science helps us to begin to understand that collaborative efforts are not something new. The Royal Society made great leaps in working together on specific projects, namely science, to further our knowledge in the matters. 

Denis Diderot was able to bring together ideas from all walks of life to create an encyclopedia; not just from his own knowledge, but from the collaborative efforts of many. "We declare, therefore, that we have not had the temerity to undertake unaided a task so superior to our capabilities, and that our function as editors consists principally in arranging materials which for the most part have been furnished in their entirety by others." (Denis Diderot; from "Preliminary Discourse to the Encyclopedia of Diderot")

Today, we have the internet, where we have collaborative databases with a wealth of information. Crowdsourcing websites like Wikipedia have revolutionized the way we can collaborate knowledge. We have ways of organizing, sharing, and editing information that the early Royal Society and Diderot probably never dreamed of! In fact, as we move more and more towards Open Access information, traditional encyclopedias will be out of date.

With this wealth of information does drive us to a question, "Does this make us smarter than our own good?" With so much information pertaining to the world and how it works, it becomes very easy to forget God, and that He created us. Even Diderot said something similar: "Thus, nothing is more necessary than a revealed Religion, which may instruct us concerning so many diverse objects. Designed to serve as a supplement to natural knowledge, it shows us part of what was hidden, but it restricts itself to the things which are absolutely necessary for us to know." (Denis Diderot; from "Preliminary Discourse to the Encyclopedia of Diderot") We cannot know everything, and therefore need to be careful not to think that we CAN know everything.

"But to be learned is good if they hearken 

unto the counsels of God." 2 Nephi 9:29


  1. I may be wrong, but I think it was Einstein who when asked the height of Mt. Everest said something like, "why would I know that? Why fill my head with useless information that I can just look up in a matter on seconds?"

    The question I have with this is - maybe we cannot know all things, but should we strive to have all information at our fingertips (subtle computer pun)? And does God know all things or is he at instant access to all knowledge as it is required by him? Is there a difference?

  2. Shaun brings up a very interesting concept: What does it mean to truly possess knowledge? Does it require knowing things off the top of your head, or just knowing where to find/access the information efficiently? It reminds me of when I was back in high school taking the ACT; I felt like it wasn't so much what I knew, but how I took the test. Knowledge of answer-finding strategies seemed as, if not more, important than knowing the answer itself. Hmm...I might have to do a post on this...