Saturday, February 28, 2009

The destructive power of Wikipedia

Today I find myself defeated in a manner that often occurs to me -- I'll be excited by some idea and in the processes of experimenting with it, I'll end up on Wikipedia where my enthusiasm will be defeated by the overwhelming amount of knowledge instantly available.

I often have ill-formed ideas that need developing; I'll begin by jotting down any aspect of the fuzzy ideas that I can get into words with the hope that somehow it will become evident how to formalize as I go along. Then, in the middle of this exercise, I'll think "this part has been done before" and I'll go to Google. Within seconds I'll be bogged down in a Wikipedia page with a sense of "Look at all the stuff I don't know! 'Everybody' else understands this but me." Within a few minutes I find my creativity defeated by the overload of information -- a sense of "If I don't understand all this, then I'm just repeating existing work." Hours worth of creative enthusiasm can be deflated by this process in mere seconds; I find it very discouraging and creatively unhealthy.

I submit that in regards to creativity, Google, Wikipedia, etc. are dual-edged swords. On the one hand, the instant access to reference material supports experiments. But on the other hand, the instant connection to all knowledge easily overwhelms one's spirit for exploration with a sense of "everything is known already". I don't know how to balance these effects and today I am squarely on the defeated side.

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