When I was young, and that wasn't very long ago (I'm just about to reach my thirtieth birthday), information wasn't easy to get. When it came to education and research about specific issues and ideas one would usually go to the library or possibly to see a professional in the area of interest for a chat. If you go back further to tribal times, (still only a quick blink of the Universal Eye) one would go and see the wise elders whose knowledge was perceived as paramount. These missions or searches for truth usually meant long hours of waiting for books to be found (if they were available) and waiting in queues. In the case of talking to people in the know it meant organizing a time to meet that fit into both of your schedules (if they were willing to spare you any of their valuable time). With the advent of the Internet times have now changed remarkably and this enigmatic tool for information sharing has circumnavigated the knowledge searches of old. We are now entering into an era where knowledge is literally at our fingertips. No more books, queues, or in-person interviews will even be necessary.
The amount of time saved and the massive deposit of information that we now have access to could lead to a whole new way of humanity living life and sharing knowledge. The Internet is new, and some people are pessimistic about the huge amounts of false, misleading, and unproven ideas that we have to sift through to get to the right stuff. Some even think that the amount of information available is causing the modern person's mind to be an over stimulated mass-confusion of ideas both true and false and often irrelevant to one's personal life. The massive proportion of the Internet that has been subsequently taken over and filled with sites of pornography shocks me greatly. Nonetheless, I do believe these to be the natural 'bugs' that appear with any new contributing element of human society, and in time the true role of the Internet will shine through as its purpose starts to gain momentum and fruition.
First of all, the wide range of sources available on any one specific area is astounding. You can get multiple viewpoints from experts from all over the world. If you want to make sure that the information is correct or properly founded, you can read others' views on the subject in question as well as researching into the researcher themselves, finding out if their studies are based on reputable means and processes.
If you are interested in information from varied areas E.g.: philosophy and astrophysics, you no longer need to spend time traveling from one library to another, or having to tote your bags from the third floor to the fifth. In the space of fifteen minutes one can read on guitar, skateboarding, African dancing, and the politics of Marx. If you do go to university, libraries are now on-line with most of the texts available to download. No more late fees for not returning a book because your car skidded and hit a tree trying to bring it back it in a blizzard!
We still need to talk with the ones 'in the know', the perceived wise people of our now global community. The chiefs and shamans of old have now dwindled in rank but there are more people than ever before that specialize in particular fields of knowledge. With email, MSN Messenger, and Skype types of on-line communication we can now get in touch with people instantly. Web-cams mean you can have a conversation with a fellow brain surgeon from the other side of the world face-to-face, just before that operation where the right information might make or break the outcome. You can communicate with groups of people that otherwise you may have never come into physical contact with. In medieval times it was rare to ever leave the local village and meet the people who lived only ten miles away. Now there are chat rooms and forums where people who are interested in the same things as you can get together and have informative discussions on relevant issues and topics. Political and national boundaries dissolve under the need and want to share knowledge with those of like mind.
What does all this truly mean for humanity? It could mean we save time, meaning more time to spend doing the things in life which are really important to us like being with loved ones and following dreams and aspirations. It could mean the ability to solve problems in areas that minutes before you could have been steeped in ignorance. Possibly it spells the beginning for a whole society to evolve into a more informed species whose knowledge is widespread and varied. Whatever the outcome from the coming of this great medium, one fact remains: People are more prone to find the answers to their quests when the ultimate source of our collective understanding is close at hand and easily accessible.