Giving computers too much power?

I felt like I was reading the first portion of the “Terminator” movie script this week.  “Man feeds computer information, computer gets stronger, starts to process its own information, thinking for itself in a way.  Computer gets out of control as power increases.  Computer eventually takes up arms against man, kills most, the few survivors forced to live in sewers.” 

I appreciated Dan Cohen’s point in “From Babel to Kowledge…” that “resources that are free to use in any way, even if they are imperfect, are more valuable than those that are gated or use-restricted, even if those resources are qualitatively better.”  Whereas I certainly agree that free historical resources for all is an idea to strive for, I’m not sure that I like the idea of accepting less imperfect data because it’s free.  Moreover, should this all the world’s library’s and archive being put online go from dream to reality, the fact that it would all be so easily accessible with a few keyboard click really helps us as people.  William Turkel states in his article, “Methodology for the Infinite Archive” that “given the low average quality of online information and the read/write nature of the web, we need the work of archivists, librarians and curators more then ever.”  Most of those people, undoubtedly, are already online too though-no need for any kind of face-to-face interaction with them anymore either. 

I have to wonder what putting all of this media, especially books, on the web is going to mean for the way that humans interact with other humans.  You don’t have to leave your couch to find a syllabus any longer, let alone read magazines, journals, and newspapers.  The everyday interaction that we had with other humans when we did simple things like buy and newspaper at a kiosk or go into the library to ask a reference question seems unnecessary.  We’re still capable of doing all of these things, but we don’t really have to.


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