Sunday, November 03, 2013

The Spread of Knowledge

I was listening to the Guardian Tech Weekly Podcast and it reminded me of a piece on medical knowledge by Dr. Kieran Murphy a former GP Trainer of mine.

They interviewed Sugata Mitra, winner of this years TED Prize.

Sugata Mitra:

In the Victorian age there were no telephones and books were expensive. Knowledge resided in individual minds. What choice was there to but to say "If you know something you tell it to me. You describe it and I will learn it from you."

As books started to proliferate then the statement changed to "Even if you don't know all of it can you tell me what books that I can read so that I can learn this and having read those books are there any more books that you would recommend"

Then the Internet arrived.

The internet is different to books as books don't talk about themselves and they don't talk about other books. The Internet talks about itself and pieces of information point to other pieces of information. You don't need the Wiseman and you don't need the Guide either. What you need is access.

Dr. Kieran Murphy:

Up until the early 1800s medical knowledge was quite limited and there were really only two specialities either medicine or surgery. At that time it was still possible for one person to know all of medical knowledge but with the advent of advances such as antisepsis and anaesthetics the range of medical knowledge started to rapidly expand and specialisation became necessary.

Medical knowledge expanded rapidly but was maintained and disseminated only within the medical profession and in medical libraries where laypeople were not allowed access. This situation continued until after the Second World War when with the advent of the doctors page in women's magazines and later in the 60s and 70s the advent of self-help books a limited and selected amount of medical knowledge was made available to the general
public. Still however the knowledge was in control of the medical profession and was not accessible to the general public.

Suddenly with the advent of the Internet all of medical knowledge was available to everyone with an Internet connection and the medical profession were no longer the exclusive custodians of medical knowledge. It is no longer possible for one person to know all of medical knowledge but as doctors we need to know how to find out. A critical skill for the modern doctor is knowledge management. Though lay people have access to the knowledge they do not have the background skills or experience to apply or integrate this knowledge in terms of their own care or that of their relatives and while the patient sitting in front of you may know more about the condition than you do and

it is your job to integrate that knowledge into their care.

Tech Weekly Podcast: Tech and the future of educating children

Alek Krotoski and guests explore how tech is kickstarting a revolution in education