Think back to a time when you were separated from the internet. If you have not experienced this phenomenon recently, then consider taking a camping trip that involved fly fishing in the mountains. I hear Colorado Springs, Colorado is an excellent place for a base camp. Before the advent of the digital age, the accumulation of knowledge within our society could have easily been represented by books sitting on library shelves. Research projects used to begin by locating a point on a library shelf selecting a book and reading the book. The author of the book provided road signs to other thinkers through the use of references. Sometimes the local library had all of the referenced books and papers. However, sometimes hunting down references can become a full time job. In the grand scheme of things the library system has worked for thousands of years. Only within the last few years has the system started to breakdown. Knowledge streams have gained a unique combination of breadth and depth that the sheer volume of thought has become overwhelming. In this case, the best description of the problem is the most simple and direct. The cloud has become overcrowded. The marketplace of ideas has in some ways transitioned from library shelves to a digital commons. Within the digital commons the bowling alone effect has become amplified.
Working only from published records can be both intellectually and socially limiting. Sometimes collaborative conversations between colleagues can spark the flame of inspiration. Without question the overcrowding effect within the digital cloud has made search engines (brute force intellectual filters) necessary. Entire worlds of thought can be truncated into a series of quotations that were discovered by an algorithm. In the past scholars had to read an entire book to locate relevant passages. Without reviewing an entire manuscript the subtlety and nuance of certain arguments can be lost forever. Consider the ramifications of quoting a sarcastic paragraph out of context. Brevity very well may be the heart of whit, but accuracy is the heart of knowledge or more to the point wisdom. This Chautauqua into the nature of truth aims to deconstruct the cloud. When the stream of knowledge society uses to make informed decisions becomes so overcrowded that only algorithms can locate relevant information the entire nature of the system needs to be questioned.
Joining traditional offline social networks can be expensive. Becoming a part of online social networks simply involves being on the right side of the digital divide. In theory the advent of the digital age should have strengthened the social fabric of society by increasing the thread count within the fabric. More interactions between groups and individuals should create unique collaborations. Most traditional offline social networks involve certain costs that extend beyond a time commitment. Time commitments are a part of everyday life. A few years ago somebody could have conceivably managed their time well enough to read every written word on a specific subject. Overcrowding within the cloud has flooded the digital commons with content. Some of the content includes the foundation of wisdom, but other parts of the endless stream of content could evaporate without adding anything to our shared collective knowledgebase.