Where Science Meets Muse

Philosophy, The Information Super-Highway and Innovation

Posted by Plish on April 14, 2009

Does the internet help or hinder philosophy?

Does the internet help or hinder philosophy?

Over at Linkedin, Paul Dowling, CEO of DreamStake, posed this poignant and thought provoking question:

“Has the internet killed the Philosopher?
It struck me that in the past knowledgeable individuals accumulated wisdom throughout their lifetime and formulated it to bring meaning to others. These philosophers have helped mankind to make sense of issues such as politics, religion, ethics and even the very meaning of life itself.
It has occurred to me that the rate of change facilitated by the internet and other technological innovations will preclude the linear building of ‘accepted’ wisdom by individuals over their lifetime.
We already talk about disruptive technology and business models. We see society changing in unpredictable ways brought on by these changes. Is philosophy dead or will it simply change to reflect the society we live in?”

First, let’s agree on some definitions.

Philosophy is Greek for, “Lover of Wisdom” (Philo – lover of;  Sophia – Wisdom).

In Greek, the word Epistamai means “to know” and “knowledge” is derived from this word. (It’s where we get Epistemology from)

In the Internet Age, access to information is unprecedented.   We are all harvesting, compiling and storing volumes of information.  We are philoepistomoi (Please forgive my Greek conjugation!) — lovers of knowledge!

Philosophy (of which I agree there is less of), is more properly a reflection upon the information or data.  In ancient Greece, to philosophize was even identified with knowing the mind of god(s) – it was searching for the method behind the madness. 

Philosophy, then, actually shares something with innovation. 

A philosopher, like an innovator, observes the world/human system and notices connections, patterns or trends where others don’t.   Build upon the connections by pulling disparate pieces of information together and what do you get?


It’s no accident that the Ancient Greeks were as innovative as they were.  Where there is philosophy, innovation can, and often will, follow.

So what does this all mean in today’s information age?

There are two routes we can follow. 

  1. We can be information hoarders
  2. We can be philosophers

But, to be effective philosophers and innovate on multiple levels we need to delve deeply into the problems of the world and the problems of the heart/mind.

It is the lack of reflection on the aspects of the human person that I believe is responsible for less philosophy in the world – less wisdom, less profound innovation. 

But, it is the human aspect that when plumbed leads to more powerful, emotive, wonderfilled innovations!

Here’s to Philosophy!


6 Responses to “Philosophy, The Information Super-Highway and Innovation”

  1. Charles Warner said

    Hear, Hear! It is in the reflection on the information available, not the information itself, wherein lies the value. Information unshared is information lost…

  2. Plish said

    Thanks for the comments, Charles!

  3. Kevin K said

    Perhaps the Internet aids philosophy. I really like the connection of philosophy and innovation – by the act of collecting dispartate knowledge and joining them in ways that produce new thinking or new function, respectively. Certainly the Internet makes it easier for the philosophic or innovative mind to access deeper pools of knowledge in a huge variety of areas much faster.

    However, perhaps the Internet hinders philosophy. Given the option of diving into yet another pool of knowledge quickly, or doing the hard, slow work of thinking about connections that create value – it is certainly tempting to dive. (That’s how I found this excellent post after all.)

  4. Plish said

    Hi Kevin!

    Great observations. Interesting point about the Internet being a distraction and limiting thinking time -it’s very accurate and something to always keep in mind. When I was doing my Master’s Thesis my advisor said something along the lines of, “You can keep researching forever, but there comes a time where you just have to start writing.” Same deal with the internet and philosophizing/innovating.

    But that temptation to dive into the vast pool of info does have a positive side; as you said, it brought you here!

    Thanks for the kind words and insights-hope to see you around more often!

  5. The difference between information hoarders and philosophers, I think, is that the former look for wisdom without while the later look for wisdom within. In my opinion true wisdom is attained by being continually involved in both processes at the same time.

  6. Plish said

    Excellent observation, Ismini! I think when we are more concerned about both processes within and without, we are more fully alive and the wisdom attained has an element of universality.
    Thanks for your thoughts and wisdom 😉 !

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: