Another serendipitous trail and I stumble on a hugely interesting resource that will no doubt absorb hours of my precious time. Over at The Edge they have asked the above question for 2009 and received 151 contributions from eminent scientists, philosophers and lots of people I have never heard of.
My personal favourite having read only the first section is that of Robert C Shank – Psychologist & Computer Scientist in his answer entitled Wisdom Reborn where he says:
In bygone days we lived in groups that had wise men (and women) who told stories to younger people if they thought that those stories might be relevant to their needs. This was called wisdom and teaching and it served as way of passing one generation’s experiences to the next.
Those days of just in time storytelling will return. The storyteller will be your computer. The computers we have today are capable of understanding your needs and finding just the right (previously archived and indexed) wise man (or woman) to tell you a story, just when you need it, that will help you think something out. Some work needs to be done to make this happen of course.
I particular like his point about current book size being “an artifact of what length book sells” so to expect the size of information to change. This correlates highly with the narrative fragments approach of ‘Cognitive Edge’.