INSIDE Chico State
0 October 30, 2003
Volume 34 Number 4
  A publication for the faculty, staff, administrators, and friends of California State University, Chico
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Librarian at Large

Photo: Jim Dwyer

Jim Dwyer

Distributed Intelligence, Autodidacts, and Informavores

"This is an age of knowledge and distributed intelligence in which knowledge is available to anyone, located anywhere, at any time; and in which power, information, and control are moving from centralized systems to individuals." (Zare, Richard N. "Knowledge and Distributed Intelligence." Science. 275(5303):2-3, Feb. 21, 1997.)

The concept of distributed intelligence is gaining popularity in psychology, systems, and learning theory. The simple notion that one person has a higher IQ than another, or that only certain people are ultimate authorities, is giving way to a more complex theory that we all have certain knowledge, skills, and ways of learning. It reflects an ancient notion that everyone is a teacher in one way or another. As the Hopi Indians say, "Everyone carries around a piece of the truth." Nobody has all the answers, and we should immediately distrust those who claim that they do. You learn on your own, you learn from others, you share your knowledge, but you never have all the answers. Instead, focus on asking the right questions.

Increasingly, people are bombarded with vast quantities of information, much of it confusing, contradictory, inaccurate, or utterly false. Think for yourself! "Autocrat" and "autodidact" may be neighbors in the dictionary, but the autodidact, the self-learner, rejects autocratic control. Autocratic institutions may attempt to retain power through withholding information or only making it available to a select few. Autodidacts, though, know where to find and how to evaluate the information needed to make good decisions.

The evolutionary autodidact is also an informavore, that is, one who not only devours and critically processes information but also shares the enriched information with others. Participants in scholarly "invisible colleges" of networked colleagues provide a good example. If we are truly committed to student-centered learning, then empowering students to become effective informavores is a worthy goal.

Excerpted from "Don't Follow Leaders, Watch the Parkin' Meters." Jackie Farris-Rees Student Leadership Conference, Tsasdi Lodge, Lake Shasta, Oct. 18, 2003.

Jim Dwyer, Library Acquisitions

 

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