Knowledge, the Meaning of Life and Our Place in the Cosmos

A few years ago, I was webmaster for a group of scientists at the Boston University Hearing Research Center. While building the site for Professor Steve Colburn, the director of the center, I had an epiphany. I was building the page of his substantial list of publications and caught a glimpse of something fantastic – a life of meaning. Scrolling though the years of his work, I could see how his work built on previous work. I could see his focus evolving, and how valuable the processes of science are to us in terms of managing contributed knowledge and effort so it isn’t wasted. Peer review, communities, universities, publications are all there to capture and manage these efforts. I stared at his list for a long time. 

Go ahead, check out his publications list. He’s amazing. (Super nice guy, too.) Scroll all the way to the bottom of the page then crawl upward through the years. What a wonderful mark he’s leaving on the world!

Concerning knowledge and its classification and retrieval, is this video on ‘Making Digital Durable’ by one of my heroes, Clay Shirky. There’s an unfortunate audio dropout for a minute about a third of the way through (example of non-durable data) but it picks up shortly afterward. It’s definitely worth seeing and it deals with something we’re thinking about right now here at SciTalks. How to create a classification system that embodies all of the science and all of future science so that we can provide a meaningful way for people to find what they want without ontological vertigo. Shirky’s a fun thinker; I hope you enjoy his talk as much as I do. 

We’ll be implementing tagging on SciTalks and we’ll welcome any suggestions for how to implement it to create the most functional system possible. You’ll be able to navigate via tag cloud. Please have a look at Shirky’s video. If you get any ideas on how to weight tags and create communities of practice, or whether it’s relevant to what we’re doing, I’d love to hear about it.  

In our featured video, renowned physicist David Deutsch talks about the prerequisites for the ‘open ended creation of knowledge’ and our place in the cosmos. His premise is that knowledge plays a big part of what makes us special. He’s wonderful. 


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