Friday, March 15, 2013
Albert Einstein and Umberto Eco: Storing Information

As Albert Einstein once said when he failed to remember the speed of sound, “[I do not] carry such information in my mind since it is readily available in books.”

The quote reminds me of a SPIEGEL interview with Umberto Eco from a few years ago. They talked about his exhibition The essential nature of lists in Paris. But also about the difference between good and bad information in the internet. This part fits well with the quote from Einstein:

SPIEGEL: Are you saying that teachers should instruct students on the difference between good and bad? If so, how should they do that?
Eco: Education should return to the way it was in the workshops of the Renaissance. There, the masters may not necessarily have been able to explain to their students why a painting was good in theoretical terms, but they did so in more practical ways. Look, this is what your finger can look like, and this is what it has to look like. Look, this is a good mixing of colors. The same approach should be used in school when dealing with the Internet. The teacher should say: “Choose any old subject, whether it be German history or the life of ants. Search 25 different Web pages and, by comparing them, try to figure out which one has good information.” If 10 pages describe the same thing, it can be a sign that the information printed there is correct. But it can also be a sign that some sites merely copied the others’ mistakes.
SPIEGEL: You yourself are more likely to work with books, and you have a library of 30,000 volumes. It probably doesn’t work without a list or catalogue.
Eco: I’m afraid that, by now, it might actually be 50,000 books. When my secretary wanted to catalogue them, I asked her not to. My interests change constantly, and so does my library. By the way, if you constantly change your interests, your library will constantly be saying something different about you. Besides, even without a catalogue, I’m forced to remember my books. I have a hallway for literature that’s 70 meters long. I walk through it several times a day, and I feel good when I do. Culture isn’t knowing when Napoleon died. Culture means knowing how I can find out in two minutes. Of course, nowadays I can find this kind of information on the Internet in no time. But, as I said, you never know with the Internet.

FYI: The picture above shows the design for Albert Einstein’s ex-libris bookplate, which he pasted into his books.
[picture via boingboing | quote from slate (The Memex in Your Pocket How technology is expanding our minds) | Spiegel Interview]

Albert Einstein and Umberto Eco: Storing Information

As Albert Einstein once said when he failed to remember the speed of sound, “[I do not] carry such information in my mind since it is readily available in books.”

The quote reminds me of a SPIEGEL interview with Umberto Eco from a few years ago. They talked about his exhibition The essential nature of lists in Paris. But also about the difference between good and bad information in the internet. This part fits well with the quote from Einstein:

SPIEGEL: Are you saying that teachers should instruct students on the difference between good and bad? If so, how should they do that?

Eco: Education should return to the way it was in the workshops of the Renaissance. There, the masters may not necessarily have been able to explain to their students why a painting was good in theoretical terms, but they did so in more practical ways. Look, this is what your finger can look like, and this is what it has to look like. Look, this is a good mixing of colors. The same approach should be used in school when dealing with the Internet. The teacher should say: “Choose any old subject, whether it be German history or the life of ants. Search 25 different Web pages and, by comparing them, try to figure out which one has good information.” If 10 pages describe the same thing, it can be a sign that the information printed there is correct. But it can also be a sign that some sites merely copied the others’ mistakes.

SPIEGEL: You yourself are more likely to work with books, and you have a library of 30,000 volumes. It probably doesn’t work without a list or catalogue.

Eco: I’m afraid that, by now, it might actually be 50,000 books. When my secretary wanted to catalogue them, I asked her not to. My interests change constantly, and so does my library. By the way, if you constantly change your interests, your library will constantly be saying something different about you. Besides, even without a catalogue, I’m forced to remember my books. I have a hallway for literature that’s 70 meters long. I walk through it several times a day, and I feel good when I do. Culture isn’t knowing when Napoleon died. Culture means knowing how I can find out in two minutes. Of course, nowadays I can find this kind of information on the Internet in no time. But, as I said, you never know with the Internet.

FYI: The picture above shows the design for Albert Einstein’s ex-libris bookplate, which he pasted into his books.

[picture via boingboing | quote from slate (The Memex in Your Pocket How technology is expanding our minds) | Spiegel Interview]

Notes

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