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Pushing the boundaries of knowledge curation

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As the rapid growth in information and knowledge continues to accelerate, we’ve reached the point at which the world’s digital content is estimated at around 150 zettabytes (ZB). That’ s more than a hundred trillion gigabytes. Overwhelmed by ever-increasing speed and volume, organizations increasingly rely on AI, machine learning (ML), and automation to sort it all out. But all of that knowledge doesn’t manage itself. Inquiring minds want to know: “Where’s the adult supervision?” Knowledge curation has been the response.

That works reasonably well, at least at the individual, team, and enterprise levels. But as enterprises expand, becoming more global, future-seeking, and boundaryless, knowledge curation alone reaches its limits. The burning question shifts, from “Who’s minding the store?” to “Whom can we trust?” Welcome to the wild, wonderful world of ... the democratization of knowledge.

Desperately seeking balance

Knowledge democratization occurs in two directions, seemingly engaged in an endless tug of war: acquisition and dissemination. On the acquisition side, in the ideal sense, every individual has an equal voice. On the dissemination side, equal access is paramount.

Out of necessity, curation comes into play on both sides. During acquisition, knowledge is carefully vetted, along with its sources. In dissemination, curation ensures that the vetted knowledge is clearly communicated, minimizing the chance for misinterpretation, which can give rise to errors and inconsistencies.

This creates some interesting challenges. On the one hand, if there is too much curation, elitism slowly creeps in, eventually taking over. There’s also the very real possibility that the experts are wrong. On the other hand, with too much democratization, new ideas, insights, and innovative breakthroughs get lost in the crowd. Truth becomes hidden from view. Worse yet, overreliance on “conventional wisdom” frequently erects impenetrable barriers to change.

Let’s take a look at some trends that are addressing these challenges in new and interesting ways ...

Decentralized social networks

No, we’re not talking about the many alternative social media platforms recently popping up that present opposing points of view in response to the mainstream discourse on major platforms. Those smaller, alternate platforms are equally centralized. Rather, truly decentralized social networks are distributed in every sense, including the private, independent, peer-based servers on which they run, many with open source software. Think shades of Napster, but without the legal issues. At least for now.

In a truly federated architecture, anyone can establish their own social network and associated governance models. Hence, we are seeing the rise of what’s become known as the fediverse. Unlike traditional social networks, a separate account is not needed to access other fediverse platforms. While the lack of a centralized authority has its drawbacks, freedom and the absence of censorship continue to draw increasing numbers of users. And, unlike wikis, no one else can modify or delete another person’s entry. Notable examples include diaspora, launched in 2010; Ethereum-based AKASHA and Minds; and many others.

The Ethereum and other block-chain-based platforms assure secure, authenticated, and tamper-proof content. And you can engage in ecommerce using bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies. This has given rise to novel practices such as micro-tipping. Instead of “likes” and other emojis, you can express your satisfaction with someone’s post by micro-tipping them as little as 1 cent.

Meanwhile, a similar centralization versus decentralization battle is taking shape on the AI front ...

Decentralized AI

According to Techopedia, “Decentralized AI systems allow users to make use of pre-trained AI models on their local devices so they can benefit from AI-generated insights without handing over their data to a centralized authority.” These systems are assembled from a number of core components, including AI/ML, ontology, distributed blockchain ledgers, smart contracts, and homomorphic encryption. All have been discussed in previous editions of this column.

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