Friday, June 13, 2014

Culture of Knowledge: Isolation or Not

In Neal Stephenson's Anathem the backdrop of the narrative is an institution of scholar monks. This institution has many campuses around the world, each only connecting with the outside world at the same time in specific time intervals.
Imagine a community focused on learning, discovery, and general intellectual persuits separated from cultural shifts and political pressures. But to do so they would need to be self sufficient, producing their food, clothing and shelter. Material resources would need to be grown and mined on the land enclosed.
I don't know that I have ever lived in, or been a part of a focused community, one of a particular reason d'etre. College seemed very focused on being able to get a good paying job or an otherwise pleasant one. Boy Scouts was probably the closest I've experienced. Far from the Amish or other cloistered groups. Have any been self sufficient for even a year at a time?
There is a very strong movement in the opposite direction. Using the Internet to make information freely available. Making universities more accessible and less of a community. And doesn't having an Internet of searchable information make us more intelligent, more capable?
It isn't a matter of possible, humans can push themselves to do extreme things, and dropping out of society happens regularly enough to not be uncanny. But would preserving a language and living without personal possesions and transcribing books and teaching in classrooms with hands on primary sources be good for humanity?