Yesterday's New York Times had an article about the on-line Wikipedia, an encyclopedia written and edited by users. Anyone is welcome to add an article to the encyclopedia, modify an article, or even delete an article. Sounds like a recipe for disaster, but the concept seems to work remarkably well, and in my experience, provides generally accurate information. The gist of the NYT article was the same.
The astonishing thing about Wikipedia is not just that it works so well, but that it works at all.
At present, Wikipedia has over 800,000 articles, in more than 80 languages. It is the world's largest encyclopedia, and a stunning testament to the wisdom and integrity of the mass of humankind. Not democracy, not anarchy, but give-and-take consensus.
A few weeks ago Tom drew my attention to an entry for me.
And, yep, there I was, along with a photo. The info, as brief as it is, is accurate. The photo is ten years out of date, but that's my fault since it's the same one as on this site, and I'm not complaining. I have no idea who wrote the entry, or who updated it, although the history is there to be looked at.
I also learned the meaning and origin of the word wiki.
When Tom and I started this website, I worried that the Comments feature might evoke unruly debate and chaos. "Don't worry," Tom replied; "The commenters will police themselves." And indeed I think we'll all agree that Comments adds immeasurably to the site. Maybe the Wiki idea provides a template for a future world government.