It is not just access to knowledge, but the knowledge itself that’s at stake. Thousands of years ago, the Library of Alexandra was, as the astrophysicist Carl Sagan wrote, “the brain and heart of the ancient world.” For seven centuries, it housed hundreds of thousands of scrolls; great works of philosophy, literature, technology, math, and medicine. It took as many centuries for most of its collections to be destroyed.
The promise of the web is that Alexandria’s library might be resurrected for the modern world. But today’s great library is being destroyed even as it is being built. Until you lose something big on the Internet, something truly valuable, this paradox can be difficult to understand.