Re: Information & Power /Alexandria library

Michael S. Lorrey (
Tue, 04 May 1999 14:11:31 -0400

Anders Sandberg wrote:

> Most of the texts of the great library were likely copies of the
> Illiad and Odyssey. By all accounts there were a great redundancy
> among the books (keeping many versions was of course a good way of
> getting around copier's mistakes).
> Would the hellenic culture have brought us to a technological
> revolution a millennium earlier if the library had remained? I
> seriously doubt that, because the problems of classical technological
> development were more social and cultural. A widespread view among the
> thinkers that practical work was beneath them and that abstract ideas
> with no empiricism was the most elegant form of knowledge,
> anti-rational mystery cults, a society based on slavery and heavily
> centralised command economies were some of the reasons the library
> doesn't appear to have been the key to technological development.
> Still, one can dream about a world where Archimedes wasn't killed and
> his tradition lived on, uniting with the Epicurean ideas described by
> Lucretius. Then we might have been on our way towards the stars in
> nanotech spaceships now. And half the crew would be named Marcus,
> Gaius and Titus :-)

Destruction of the library probably helped the development of scientific technological culture, because the loss of its knowledge, right or wrong, inspired generations of men to conduct original research using the scientific method to 'recover' that 'lost' knowledge. As a result we have reached ever higher levels of acheivement. I think that if the library had remained, we would have developed a system which prized respect for the old knowledge over the potential of new knowledge.

Mike Lorrey