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“God created but Linnaeus organised”

May 20th, 2007 · No Comments

Linnés Hammarby

Originally uploaded by pk01.

On May 23, Sweden says happy 300th birthday to the scientist just quoted–the not-very-modest Carolus Linnaeus.

The bright-red cabinet shown is Linnaeus’s “hard disk,” quips its photographer. Linnaeus’s claim to fame was his simple method for organizing the vast confusion of plant and animal species, using two-part scientific names. One giant step for Homo sapiens!

One could do the math (though I won’t) comparing the complexity of all those genomes to the number of infobits on the Internet. David Weinberger’s new book Everything is Miscellaneous makes a compelling case that we Web 2.0 folk are creating value as each of us mini-adds our own tags, playlists, and hyperlinks to that vast digital pileup of miscellanity.

David says that Linnaeus’s reliance on paper to organize his thoughts fell far short of the tricks computers can do with pixels and bits. Very true–and yet, no matter how smart computers become, there’s still an important role for human beings in finding some simple thread through the world’s vast labyrinth and putting that thread in the hand of a fellow seeker.

As Weinberger himself does — and as Linnaeus did.

Tags: everythingismiscellaneous · Metablogging · Science