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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!


Posted in Authenticity, Design, innovation, Lateral Thinking, Philosophy, problem solving, The Human Person | Tagged: , , , , , | 6 Comments »

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