Our modern civilization has been built up by means of a worldwide exchange of ideas and inventions. It is built on the achievements of all the peoples of the world throughout history. The true history of humanity is not the history of power struggles, conflicts, kings, dictators and empires. The true history of humanity is a history of ideas, inventions, progress, shared knowledge, shared culture and cooperation.
Our cultural heritage is not only immensely valuable; it is also so great that no individual comprehends all of it. We are each of us specialists who understand only a tiny fragment of the enormous edifice. No scientist understands all of science. Perhaps Leonardo da Vinci could come close in his day, but today it is impossible. Nor do the vast majority people who use cell phones, personal computers and televisions every day understand in detail how they work. Our health is preserved by medicines that are made through processes that most of us do not understand, and we travel to work in automobiles and buses that we would be completely unable to build.
The sharing of scientific and technological knowledge is essential to modern civilization. The great power of science is derived from its enormous concentration of attention and resources towards the understanding of a tiny fragment of nature. It would make no sense to proceed in this way if knowledge were not permanent, and if it were not shared by the entire world.
Science is not competitive. It is cooperative. It is a great monument built by many thousands of hands, each adding a stone to the cairn. This is true not only of scientific knowledge but also of every aspect of our culture, history, art and literature, as well as the skills that produce that everyday objects upon which our lives depend. Civilization is not competitive. It is cooperative!
My recent book, The Information Explosion, discusses the role of information in evolution, and especially in the evolution of human culture, and is free to download and circulate.
The Information Explosion as well as other books and articles on global problems are available from the Danish Peace Academy.
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