Educational Development

Essential listening: Brewster Kahle on universal access to human knowledge

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Audio file - 45 meg

Brewster Kahle initiated the Internet Archive, an amazing library archive, succeeding in its incredibly ambitious vision - to provide universal access to ALL human knowledge and information.

If you're a librarian, or someone who works with information and knowledge production, publishing, storage, archive, retrieval and reuse... that's everyone! Then you would be neglecting your post by not listening to this recording of Brewster presenting his arguments and vision at IT Conversations archives of the SDForum Distinguished Speaker Series.

Bill Kerr went to the trouble of transcribing Brewsters final word in the recording:

When I grew up I felt that life was happening to me - I got to watch TV, I heard from teachers, I read textbooks ... the newspapers were written by someone other ... it felt like things happened to me

It was only when I got to a technical college that I found people in the front end of a field ... it was very exciting, invigorating ... people answering questions that hadn't been answered, rather than, "Do it right kid, or you'll get a B"

It was exciting when I was in a crypto class and the teacher said, "In this class you're going to learn all these things ... and then we have a bunch of unanswered questions ... if you have any ideas on these unanswered questions, here's my home number" ... that's exciting!

The opportunity we have with the net and it's already happening is making it so that more people feel like they're at the front edge, that they're seeing primary materials, that they can talk and interact with the real guys, that they're building and making something new, that they have something to say that matters ... that the world is theirs to play with and build on.

The key thing for us is to make it Read / Write. You can read or comment or make something new. You deserve to be in the library too.

The key to happiness for me is satisfaction and being satisfied comes from doing things for others, that I could tell what their reaction was. One of the cool things about this WAIS system was you put up these things and you started to see the usage logs ... people were coming in from other countries ... they cared about me ... it was like that ham radio experience ... where are you?

We started to share things, making it so more people are on the front edge ... they are able to draw from the past and make new things

The downside, the evil, awful, how could it go wrong is cable television or DRM, where it's all locked up. You're allowed to experience it ... entertainment and being a consumer ... this is SICK, I don't want to be a consumer, I don't want to be entertained. That's happening to me. I want to be able to build on and show off to my friends ... and that requires easing up and being able to play with stuff.

I think ideas come from the commons. They're exploited successfully by Companies as Marx said ... but I'm a card carrying capitalist and I've been fairly successful. But I do know the limitations of what we can do in the private sphere.

The public sphere is something we really have to nurture. When I was first at an internet conference after coming out with WAIS in 1991, I remember putting up my hand and saying, "I'm the token dot com in the room, I'm here to help people make money on the net". But NOW, I'm the token dot org in the room! It's gone so far the other way that we've forgotten that it really requires the commons ...

That's my dream and hope that my kids have a better life than I have

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