Too Big To Know: The Science that exists at the network level

David Weinberger has written a new book, out just now: Too Big To Know. In The Atlantic, he published an abstract. Here are two brief samples just to give you an idea:


The problem — or at least the change — is that we humans cannot understand systems even as complex as that of a simple cell. It’s not that were awaiting some elegant theory that will snap all the details into place. The theory is well established already: Cellular systems consist of a set of detailed interactions that can be thought of as signals and responses. But those interactions surpass in quantity and complexity the human brains ability to comprehend them.


We have a new form of knowing. This new knowledge requires not just giant computers but a network to connect them, to feed them, and to make their work accessible. It exists at the network level, not in the heads of individual human beings.

I tend to be very careful, bordering on wary, when it comes to US books that have even the slightest touch point with management and business. Too many one trick ponies out there that are just the ticket to the speaker circuit.

However, what David Weinberger delivered here doesn’t seem to be one of those. (In fact, he’d probably pretty appalled that I even put him in the same league with those others, and rightfully so.) I have tremendous respect for him and his thoughts, and both the Cluetrain Manifesto and Small Pieces Loosely Joined were pretty much seminal works that I’ve been working with, and revisiting, ever since they came out.

Too Big To Know seems to fall in that same category. While I’m waiting for the delivery – it won’t be out till Jan 19 in Germany – I can only recommend anyone who might have to do with Big Data or science over the next few years to consider ordering a copy.

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