July 18th, 1866. The dawn of the Information Age. For centuries mankind had been reliant upon the physical transportation of information from one place to another, and while innovations such as steam engines and ships had allowed faster and faster communications between countries, it still took literal weeks to send a letter from the United States to Europe, or anywhere in between, due to the physical letters needing to be transported via ship across the open waters. But then it came. The transatlantic telegraph cable.
On July 18th, 1866, the first commercially successful telegraph cable was used, linking the United States with Europe. Instead of messages taking weeks or even months to cross the open waters, they could now be transferred in a matter of minutes.
Most people associate the term Information Age with the latter part of the 20th century, and the first decade of the 21st century. We have all seen the spread of information through resources like Wikipedia, the community-building aspects of social networks like Facebook, MySpace, and Twitter. The world is not as large as it once was. In fact, communication these days is instantaneous. The blink of an eye, at most. But the Information Age actually started back in 1866, not in the latter part of the 20th century. It was when mankind took that step towards uniting the world through instant communication that the flow of information began to spread.
Knowledge is no longer hoarded by those select few who wielded their knowledge like a weapon of mass destruction, bludgeoning to death anyone who dared challenge their authority. The media is no longer in control of who is allowed to learn what, how quickly, or in what context. We, the people, are in control of what we learn, how we learn it, and when we learn. Knowledge is power, and the people of the Earth have clearly taken a stand for what they believe in. The evidence is there, in the Internet, with places like Wikipedia and Google having literal hundreds of millions of users per year.
Knowledge is power. It is an old saying, and one that has held true for thousands of years. This is why the sharing of information is so important for the evolution of our species, both on a social scale and the economical. As the world becomes a smaller and smaller place it is vitally important that everyone in the world become as educated as they possibly can, and that can only happen through the open transfer of information. The world does not benefit by the hoarding of knowledge. The only ones who benefit from such actions are the people who control the flow.
This is the reason why academics and traditional media outlets are in an uproar over the Internet, Google, and places like Wikepedia. They do not want you to become educated. If you become educated it strips away their power. If everyone in the world can suddenly know the truth, perform the tasks that the peasants would otherwise would have been reliant upon these lordly few to perform for them, they are reduced to nothing more than normal, average, everyday human beings.
Academics claim that the main reason they are upset about the spread of information through places like Wikipedia is because the information does not come from credible sources. Let’s analyze that for just a moment, shall we? Taking a look back over the centuries, who benefits the most from a controlled flow of information? The academics, or the general public? The academics, of course. By controlling the flow of information, they hold the power. The last thing they want to do is relinquish that position, which is why they are in a panic over Wikipedia. It is not that Wikipedia is an unreliable source (see Research in the 21st Century for more information on its credibility), but rather the fact that Wikipedia allows information to be shared freely, by all people, without anyone controlling the flow. Power is now shared. It is only natural that the academics are frightened by this aspect. For thousands of years they were the lords, and they grew accustomed to their lofty positions.
The world is no longer a place separated by weeks and months of travel and the limitations of physical transportation. Communication is instantaneous, and humanity has thrown off the shackles of reliance to a select few who told us when and what we were allowed to learn. We are globally conscious, globally aware, and globally united. Lines on a map are the only things which separate us now, and even those are slowly fading as humanity begins to evolve past the shallow differences of racial origins and emerges into the 21st century as an enlightened whole.
What are you doing to help the evolution of the species and the sharing of knowledge?