Random thoughts about education, democracy, information warfare and Wikipedia

I am afraid I am now writing some pretty obvious observations. Something we all know. Nothing unique. Unfortunately, I feel that I must write these obvious things as it looks that so many people are ignoring them. Maybe I am writing more to myself than to anyone else — to remind myself.

Present Continuous Past(s) by by Dan Graham

Education pays off. Democracy needs education and education is the key to a healthy economy. The question is why it is still so difficult to provide even basic education for all? Without any conspiracy theories it is reasonable to ask who benefits from the lack of education?

Far too often when talking about democracy we emphasis elections, the right to choose and replace government through fair election. Same time we easily pay less attention to the most important aspects of democracy: respect of human rights and people’s active participation to civic life. Without these in place there will never be fair elections, either. Again we may ask, are there people, mobs or individuals who benefit from the lack of democracy?

Characteristic for the latest armed conflicts in Ukraine and in Israel-Palestine have been their expansion from the battlefields where people die to the information warfare where the killings are justified. Military intelligence, spying and propaganda have always been part of warfare. Today it is different. For public the number of sources of information is almost infinite. Information is provided by news agencies representing different regimes and working for their interests. There are messages, pictures, selfies and video clips in social media from the solders and civilians (or made to look like and claimed to be made by solders or civilians).

Furthermore, the information warfare is not only about propaganda and attempts to influence the public opinion. Today the information warfare is also real and fake surveillance disclosures and attacks to information infrastructure. All these made by government agencies, paid or unpaid hacktivist — who knows. No surprise that educated public with critical thinking skills is confused what source one should trust. And in places where ignorance is bliss, it is anyway folly to be wise. (Thomas Gray). Ignore the truth or die. Again I am asking, who benefits from the confusion and ignorance?

Education, democracy and information warfare are all interlinked. Without educated public it is impossible to have democracy. Without democracy there are wars.

Therefore, these days we probably need more Wikipedia that ever before. Why? Wikipedia has a simple and clear content policies (neutral point of view, verifiability etc.) and motivated crowds around the world that are committed to the vision and the mission. This means that Wikipedia is transparent and aims to be multilingual and accessible for all (see: free mobile access in various countries). All this makes Wikipedia a great source of information. It is hard to manipulate and difficult to infiltrate to. People are watching.

With its hypertext format and latest move to the direction of semantic web with the Wikidata, Wikipedia is providing not only news about the current issues but the context, too. This makes it easy to get an overview, to compare different events, to read about the history of the events and to compare how different language groups are writing about the topics. Lets have a look of the situation in Ukraine via Wikipedia. To study the topic, to get an overview and context, you may have a look of these articles:

Wikipedia is important. On our way to democratic and peaceful world — to the world were we all respect human rights and take part in civic life — we still need more. Because:

“Information is not knowledge.
Knowledge is not wisdom.
Wisdom is not truth.
Truth is not beauty.
Beauty is not love.
Love is not music.
Music is the best.”
― Frank Zappa

We need primary education focusing on basics: reading and writing, math, science, geography, history, languages and arts (including music). The point of primary education is not to have skills with exchange value in a job market. They are important for the sake of democracy and peace: for people to become humans. Continuing deepening understanding on the “basics” is important in higher levels of education, too. When combined with domain specific studies people become questioning, creative and empathic. And guess what? It pays off.

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