All the Knowledge of the World At Your Fingertips
Last night I stayed up late to finish a little cotton sundress I was knitting for my granddaughter. When I got to the bottom of the skirt, the pattern called for a ‘picot bind off.’ I’d never done that technique before, and the instructions in the pattern didn’t help – I couldn’t figure it out.
So, of course, I got online and Googled “picot bind off.” And within moments, I had dozens of options. I went on Youtube and watched a very clear and simple video example of the technique, and was able to complete it easily.
This morning I told my husband about it, and we started talking about how the internet has transformed human learning.
Two hundred years ago, I would only have been able to learn a new knitting technique if someone in my village or town knew it and could show it to me.
One hundred years ago, I might have been able to read it in a book (but, as I discovered, that’s often not a very efficient way to learn).
Fifty years ago, I could have read it in a book or magazine, and then if I knew an expert knitter, and he or she knew this particular stitch, I could have called him or her on the phone and asked to be walked through the instructions.
But it’s only in this past 10 years or so that our options for learning have exploded in this amazing way. Now, within a few minutes and a couple of clicks, I can find a video and/or written explanation of pretty much any knitting technique that exists.
Every single day, we use the internet to gain knowledge we would not, in any past human era, have been able to find. “To google” (as in, I’ll just google it) has become a verb so common over the past decade that it doesn’t even seem fantastic to us anymore. All the knowledge of the world and all of man’s creation is at our fingertips: most all art, music, writing, insight; information on any possible subject. It’s more than any of us could ever take in.
When I think about it this way, it makes me want to be a little more discriminating in my time online. If all the food in the world was available to me right now, I’d want to select the best, freshest, most delicious. Now that the planet’s knowledge is spread out before me…I want to choose to fill my brain with those things that will be most interesting, helpful, fun, inspiring, thought-provoking.
William Morris, the English writer and artist, once said, “Only have in your house what you know to be useful or believe to be beautiful.” A good prescription for what we put in our brains, as well.