The Power of Collective Intelligence and Learning in Public


Hatched by Glasp

Sep 10, 2023

4 min read


The Power of Collective Intelligence and Learning in Public

In today's digital age, the barriers to accessing knowledge have significantly decreased. Thanks to platforms like Sci-Hub, individuals now have the ability to remove the obstacles that hinder the development of human knowledge. Despite its controversial nature and legal issues, Sci-Hub is undeniably a brilliant tool that connects one brain to another using research papers as a medium. The mastermind behind this revolutionary tool is Alexandra Elbakyan, who was recognized by Nature as the "Paper Pirate" in their top ten people that mattered in science list. However, Elbakyan's journey has not been without its challenges. In 2015, she was sued by Elsevier, a publisher of over 500,000 articles in 2,500 journals yearly. Elbakyan is currently in hiding due to the risk of extradition, but she continues to pursue a Master's degree in Philosophy of Science in an undisclosed location.

The concept behind Sci-Hub is fascinating. Our brain, with its billions of interconnected neurons, is the epitome of collective intelligence. It is through the constant communication between these neurons that our consciousness emerges. With modern computers still far from being able to accurately emulate the complexities of the human brain, tools like Sci-Hub bridge the gap by enabling researchers to connect and share their findings. However, the existence of restrictive laws, such as copyright laws, poses a significant challenge to the free distribution of information on the internet, including academic papers and books. Elbakyan believes that these laws must be fixed to facilitate knowledge dissemination.

While Sci-Hub revolutionizes the way we access and share information, there is another powerful concept that complements it: learning in public. Learning in public is not merely an act of altruism; it is a strategic way to accelerate learning, establish networks, and build a successful career. By openly sharing what we learn and documenting our experiences, we not only benefit ourselves but also contribute to the wider community. This win-win situation creates a sustainable learning ecosystem.

Learning in public begins by creating something that we wish we had found when we were first learning. By documenting our process, the problems we solve, and organizing our knowledge, we can open-source our findings. This act of sharing attracts like-minded individuals and builds a supportive online community. It is astonishingly easy to organize information in a structured and accessible manner, often surpassing the capabilities of search engines like Google. The key is to focus on the quality and value of our contributions rather than seeking validation through retweets or upvotes.

However, it is crucial to remember that the learning process should not be solely driven by external motivation or the desire for attention. As we progress and gain experience, we may need to shift our focus to our own needs and develop intrinsic drive. It is natural to feel uncomfortable or like an imposter at times, but these feelings indicate that we are pushing ourselves and growing. Embracing our "noobyness" and acknowledging that we don't know everything is liberating. Instead of striving to never be wrong, we should aim to become adept at recovering from our mistakes. This mindset accelerates our learning process and eliminates the fear of being incorrect.

Learning in public also has the power to distinguish us from the crowd. By consistently showing up and actively participating, we stand out among the countless lurkers. Incorporating a social feedback mechanism into our learning journey fosters more learning and growth. As we build a track record and embark on more ambitious projects, our public activity becomes a commitment device. This commitment pushes us to engage in higher levels of learning, such as applying, analyzing, evaluating, and creating.

Throughout history, those who have shared their knowledge have left an indelible mark on humanity. Prominent figures like Plato and Aristotle are remembered because they wrote down and shared their thoughts and ideas. By sharing our own learnings, we contribute to the collective knowledge pool and potentially leave a lasting legacy. It is a way to achieve a form of immortality.

In conclusion, the concept of collective intelligence through tools like Sci-Hub and learning in public are transformative. They break down barriers, democratize knowledge, and empower individuals to contribute to the greater good. To harness the power of these concepts, it is essential to embrace the idea of open sharing, document our processes, and actively participate in the learning community. Here are three actionable pieces of advice to embark on this journey:

  • 1. Share your knowledge: Don't hoard your learnings; instead, open-source them and contribute to the collective intelligence. By sharing what you know, you not only benefit others but also establish your presence in the learning community.
  • 2. Embrace your mistakes: Don't be afraid to be wrong or feel like an imposter. Embrace your "noobyness" and use your mistakes as stepping stones for growth. Learn to recover from errors and continue pushing yourself forward.
  • 3. Commit to learning in public: Consistently show up and actively participate in discussions, projects, and knowledge-sharing platforms. Build a track record and use your public activity as a commitment device to tackle more ambitious projects and engage in higher levels of learning.

By embracing collective intelligence and learning in public, we become part of a global network that propels knowledge development and personal growth. Let us challenge the status quo, fix outdated laws, and create a future where knowledge is freely accessible to all.

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