A short history of knowledge, from feudalism to the Internet | Alice Dreger | Summary and Q&A

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May 6, 2018
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Big Think
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A short history of knowledge, from feudalism to the Internet | Alice Dreger

TL;DR

Peer review and crowdsourcing are important for knowledge generation, but biases and lack of accountability can be challenges. The internet lacks checks and balances, but platforms like Wikipedia have some mechanisms in place.

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Key Insights

  • 👻 Peer review allows for the judgment and improvement of work by qualified individuals, contributing to better knowledge.
  • ❓ The origins of peer review can be traced back to the Enlightenment period, highlighting the belief in individuals' ability to generate knowledge.
  • 🔬 Democracy and science both employ peer review, emphasizing the value of seeking knowledge through collective judgment.
  • 🥺 The internet enables crowdsourcing, but its lack of checks and balances can lead to the dissemination of fake information.

Questions & Answers

Q: How does peer review contribute to knowledge generation?

Peer review allows qualified individuals to judge and improve each other's work, leading to the identification of blind spots, errors, and overall improvement. It acts as a means to crowdsource knowledge.

Q: What is the historical significance of peer review?

Peer review originated during the Enlightenment period, reflecting the belief that knowledge could come from individuals rather than external authorities like the church or the state. It grew alongside democracy and science.

Q: How does peer review relate to democracy?

Peer review can be seen in democracy through voting systems and the use of juries in criminal or non-criminal acts. It aligns with the idea that more people looking at a problem leads to better knowledge.

Q: How does the internet impact crowdsourcing?

The internet enables crowdsourcing on a massive scale without adequate checks and balances. This can lead to the spread of fake information and the proliferation of bots until human intervention occurs.

Summary & Key Takeaways

  • Peer review, although important, is not without biases and complications. It allows qualified individuals to judge and improve each other's work, leading to better knowledge.

  • Peer review originated during the Enlightenment period, alongside the growth of democracy and science. The idea that more people looking at a problem leads to better knowledge was embraced during this era.

  • The internet enables crowdsourcing but lacks sufficient checks and balances. However, platforms like Wikipedia have editors and discussions that provide some level of accountability.

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