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The Professor hides in his vast library of moldering books. There's the comfortable chair with the good reading light, books strewn all around him in awkward stacks, or more chaotic piles where the stacks fell after getting a little too awkward to stand under their own weight.
There's the chef with the shelves of cookbooks -- some found on a trip to far away lands, some basics that every chef should have. The collection of cards and boxes of pages torn from magazines crowd the flour dredged spines of collected recipes.
There was a time that to be an expert, you had to compile and hoard your knowledge. That clever trick for pie crust, or that snippet of Kipling, was only safe if you had it written down and squirreled away. You would buy an entire tome from a one-eyed man in Istanbul because there was a passage you knew you would never see again and you simply MUST own it.
That day may come again, as the fall of civilization is always a possibility. But I've decided that I'm not the Archivist. My role in life isn't to collect, catalog, and store the Library of Alexandria in cardboard boxes and Ikea shelving. My role is to consume and use the information that is flowing past me at the speed of light (which I can look up on Wikipedia and find that it might not be as constant as my old encyclopedia tells me).
There are books I want to own, and I'm not chucking out my entire library. I have a first printing, first edition of Larry Niven's Ringworld, which is very rare and has errors he corrected by the second printing. But last time I read Ringworld was on my Kindle -- it's easier to take the entire collection on the airplane electronically rather than put the books all in a banker's box and buy a second seat.
I don't own the media for the sake of having an off-line backup of something I want to read. I own the media because I like the medium. Books are cool in their own way, but as I chew on a story, digest it, and incorporate what the author is saying into my view of reality, I need to be able to look up words that sometimes aren't in the dictionary but are on www.urbandictionary.com.
I need more information than I can find in the few hundred or so books I own, the stacks of magazines, or the printed journals I've collected over the years. I need it faster than climbing up the ladder in the dusty library, scanning titles of books, flipping through indexes, and then starting over.
The professor pulls out his mobile device, enters a brilliant query, and says, "Aha!" The chef searches a database of Turkish culinary history on her tablet, and finds the perfect dish for the gala event.
The information is out there. The knowledge for what to do with that information is up to you.
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Be sure to see my blog over at Cloudenity. This week's topic:
Identity Isn't Just for Users Anymore