Sir Francis Bacon's Advancement of Learning and Information on the Internet

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Sir Francis Bacon's Advancement of Learning and Information on the Internet

In the book of Ecclesiastes we are told, "Of making many books there is no end; and much study is weariness to the flesh." (Eccles. 12:12) If we compare web sites to books, then it follows that there is no end to the amount of information put onto the Internet, and that studying, or, browsing the Internet is tiring. Additionally, we read, "For in much wisdom is much grief: and he who increases knowledge increases anxiety." (Eccles. 1:18) The sheer quantity of information found on the Internet must increase our knowledge and this we read - that anxiety follows. Bacon's tells us that what we need is not quantity, but quality of information plus a corrective spice.

Bacon reasons that the biblical writers were not thinking of "pure knowledge" of nature and universality. He suggests that they were referring to people's attempts to rule themselves using knowledge of good and evil, in which case depending no more on God. Therefore, there is no grief in learning.

How large a quantity of knowledge can completely fill the mind? Nay, the mind can never be satisfied with a quantity of knowledge states Bacon. He quotes the Scripture, "the eye is never satisfied with seeing, nor the ear with hearing." (Eccles. 1:8) There is nothing in this world that isn't reached by people's inquiry and invention. If this is the capacity of the mind, then it is clear that there is no problem with having too much knowledge. The problem is the quality of knowledge therein.

The fact that the Internet is bristling full of information, too much information for a single human being to comprehend, is not the problem, but the real issue is in the quality of the information therein. The old lesson on Internet searching is when you enter for example, "computers," and the search engine returns 10 of an abominable 8,102,365 matches. You would exclaim, "Wow! There is a lot of information in there." Then you would ask, "How do you know what is good?" Where is the quality? Portals (who run search engines) these days are adding value to their searched information thereby returning higher quality results, often grouped by appropriate categories, thus pinpointing useful information for the learning public.

Yes, the quality of information needs to increase, but Bacon tells us that we need a corrective spice. The reason we need this spice is that the information may be of high quality but be "venomous" or malign in nature.

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