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SSB Log Entry 246

Plato grew concerned over people's reliance on books rather than memorization. I will hear on occasion a similar sentiment from people of our time. They worry that the people of today have lost something by relying on digital formats such as web search instead of more traditional things like paper books.

I don't agree with such sentiment and I will most certainly not complain about having resources as expansive as Wikipedia, Open Street Map or the Internet Archive. I do think though there is one thing we have lost by having insanely well indexed databases at our disposal. As a curious kid growing up in an exurban area, I did not have many forms of entertainment. My encyclopedia set offered me the ability to peruse a knowledge base at random and without a purpose. I learned a great deal of botany, biology, chemistry and many other subjects in the process. Often this knowledge was found during a search for a more specific (yet unrelated) answer. The act of turning the page led me to unexpected headings and illustrations that were of great interest. Conversely, the internet provides me answers to almost any question I ask, but it comes with the caveat that I know what the question is.

Advances in data structures and algorithms are helping humanity solve huge challenges. I sure do wish sites other than Wikipedia cam with a "random" button, though.