We have the technological systems in place to connect the vast majority of people in the world with much, if not most, of the greatest collections of knowledge. We have impressive digital databases. We have millions of hours of sound recordings. We have 100 years of film and video available. We have, of course, millions of books. . . .
We lack only one thing: the political will to fight for a great and noble information system—a global digital library. I’m not talking about the haphazard rush we’ve seen to date to digitize the stacks of major research libraries. Nor a commercial venture like Google’s. I’m proposing what I call the “Human Knowledge Project” in my book, The Googlization of Everything (And Why We Should Worry). What I mean is a truly global digital library. To generate support for that, we need to identify the political and legal constraints, as well as articulate the payoffs.
That entails a formidable series of tasks. It might take 10, 20, or even 50 years. But there is no reason we should settle for expediency at the expense of excellence. After a few conversations, we might decide it’s not worth the effort or cost. But at least we would have tried. And that’s so much healthier than waiting for the Big Rich Magic Company in the Clouds to do all this for us—on its terms.