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Dropping Knowledge

droppingk.jpgIf you could ask the collective wisdom of the world any question, any question at all, what would it be?

Absent a post-singularity realtime network of our unconscious minds, Dropping Knowledge may be the closest we get to such an opportunity.

Dropping Knowledge describes itself as "an educational resource and online network that connects people around the globe seeking to exchange ideas and solutions to the most pressing issues of our day." Participants are encouraged to ask questions of the collected wisdom of the assembled crowd about the nature of the world and human society. These questions will be combined with a broader international poll, seeking to build a "social issue framework." A thousand participants will be assembled to form a web-based research group to start to frame answers; this frame will be used by a group of over a hundred global leaders (including Umberto Eco, Bill McDonough, Nelson Mandela, and Bono) to assemble more specific answers. The results will then be put into an interactive online archive, designed to encourage further discussion.

If this all sounds ambitious, it is. Dropping Knowledge claims to have no underlying bias, and to seek only to reflect a multiplicity of viewpoints; the spectrum of perspectives represented by the 112 leaders is somewhat debatable, but the list does include a greater number of non-US and non-European names than one typically finds in these kinds of events. They claim that "generating wisdom is the ultimate goal" of the project. The website goes into great detail about their agenda, and if they are even close to successful, it will be a remarkable accomplishment.

I do wish, however, that they had greater trust in the assembled wisdom of non-famous people. I'm quite sure that the chosen participants will come up with compelling and fascinating ideas, but I want to hear more from voices who don't normally have an international stage.

Maybe what we need is a Wikiwisdom project.

(Thanks to Joel Makower for the tip.)

Comments (5)

Someone should ask them where I left my keys.

I wish them luck, but I feel they are going about the project all wrong.

A wiki-format would work better. Since anyone can write/edit any question, entries (such as the definition of abortion) will bounce back and forth between different perspectives until they settle in the middle ground. The reason wikipedia's NPV (neutral point of view) works is because of this.

As soon as I saw the word "group" alarm bells started ringing. No group of only 1,000s people will be able to express someone as abstract as wisdom. Furthermore, the whole idea of having famous people provide answers is simply ridiculous. Bono has a heart of gold, but I don't know that just because his profession (by its very nature) makes him famous qualifies him as a "wise man".

So just as a thought experiment:

Imagine it's about 1925, but with a difference. Radio has developed a kind of "interactive" feature that lets the listeners at home "vote" by pressing a button on the front of the radio. One day, the question is:

"Is the Negro an inferior being to the White Man?"

The "collective wisdom" would have been a resounding "Yes".

Would that have been that a good thing?

Lawrence Wang:

if nothing else, it'll help gauge the pulse of the self-styled wise community.


"No group of only 1,000s people will be able to express some[thing] as abstract as wisdom." Individuals occasionally do pretty well; why not groups?

Lawrence Wang:



WikiWisdom exists already. It just needs promotion, I guess.

I would like to see this wise collectivity debate the question of whether or not democracy and ecological sustainability are compatible: if so, how can we reach democratic consensus to become sustainable - and if not, what alternative is there?
This question occurred to me recently after reading an article on the ineffectiveness of Canada's "One Tonne Challenge" inviting Canadians to be good guys and reduce their personal CO2 emissions by a tonne a year. The government spent millions on this campaign, but it seems as if people don't get it. Or aren't compelled as a result to do much of anything.
So if voluntary environmentalism doesn't work, and governmental "coercion" (e.g., doubling gas taxes to cut down gas consumption) is (as this author put it) "political suicide" (meaning that green politicians can never win or stay in office) ... my next question would be:

Is collective denial of ecological damage from within the comfort of (addiction to) democratic materialism an ecological mechanism that will ultimately result in the crash of unsustainable societies?


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