The Universal Mind

Like a John Hodgman who isn't bullshitting everybody, digital archivist and artificial intelligence master Brewster Kahle has dedicated himself to nothing less than “Universal Access to All Knowledge,” also the title of his seminar tonight with the Long Now Foundation. It's a plan so grand that in any other age it might sound like supervillainy. But Kahle — the founder of the deep and illuminating Internet Archive, a reference of great breadth and utility — wants that knowledge for everybody, not just himself. But maybe instead of “everybody” we should say “everything,” because he's now working out whether all that knowledge he's sharing can be read by machines, which sounds to us like the scariest evolutionary leap since velociraptors figured out how to open doors. That said, the questions Kahle takes on tonight do not sound like the backstory from some dystopian-future novel: How do we preserve the petrabytes of data our culture generates? How will the creators of texts be compensated for their work in a world where all knowledge is accessible by anyone at anytime? And, in the machines-can-read future, will the machines at one point grow lazy, stop reading, and just get their knowledge from cable news instead?
Wed., Nov. 30, 7:30 p.m., 2011

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