TED has posted a talk from December 2007 by Brewster Kahle, talking on the subject of A digital library, free to the world. The talk is a terrific update on what it takes to digitize all of the world’s books, recorded audio, and movies — and a progress report from Internet Archive on the vast amounts of this work that has already been done. Brewster Kahle is a star of the early Internet era as the quintessential digital librarian. His increasingly towering achievement is essential in fulfilling the promise of a global knowledge ecology.
The next step — that is just beginning to be understood — is that the global ecology of enlightenment will be unleashed by the knowledge within the pieces Kahle collects, not by the pieces (books, audio, movies) themselves. For example, the digitized pieces may include dozens of books about the biology of butterflies. In the books-bound-in-paper era, those butterfly books would all sit next to each other on a shelf in a library at best. More realistically, they would be scattered in libraries across the world. The next step is not about putting all the books on the same shelf; something much more valuable will happen.
The ecology of enlightenment is being born in the networking among the knowledge WITHIN the digitized books and other digitized media. As it becomes possible to tag digital content in every book that has “Monarch butterflies,” a student using the Internet will be able to cluster the Monarch butterfly content from all of the digitized books into her focus for comparative and contextual learning. The tag will also add to her cluster stuff about Monarch butterflies from other media such as blogs, wikis, movies, etc. Students will be enlightened by emergent ideas from a knowledge ecology that includes all open media.