Information Equality

Right now, as a world civilization, we don't have information equality, in the truest sense.  And, to be honest, I can't concieve of a world in which we have true information equality.  There are facts about humanity right now that make it impossible for everyone to have equal access to all information.  There are language barriers, and a breakdown of priviliged v. non-priviliged languages -- you've got much better access to a range of information if you speak English or Chinese, for example, than if you speak Karon.  There are also institutions, like academic and trade journals, that create high cost barriers to information.  Universities do this as well, constructing even higher cost barriers, as well as reinforcing cultural boundaries. So, instead of advocating for a sort of platonic universality of information, where we all just automatically know and understand everything, I'm going to outline a weaker definition for information equality, which I think is a lot more achievable, and that's what I'll be discussing.

Weak Information Equality: A state at which 99% of the world population has access to the current state of world knowledge, and to affordable educational structures which have a high success rate in helping their students achieve comprehension of that knowledge.

Affordable educational structure: For the purposes of this argument, 'affordable' is defined as (a.) within the price range of an employed person (my views on employment will come later) and reasonably workable within a 40hr workweek schedule, in any given area.

High success rate: This is possibly the most nebulous term in my definition, because what constitutes a high success rate for any given field will vary.  Like, a high success rate for basic algebra should be over 90%.  A high success rate for advanced physics would, I think, necessarily be lower.

I'm not sure whether it's possible to achieve even this weak version of information equality, but I think we're at a point where we, as a world civilization, have the equipment necessary to try.  I also think that it's worth trying as hard as we can manage, because this isn't the sort of thing where failure means it all goes away, or things go worse than they would have if we hadn't tried.  Up is pretty much the only way to go.

I believe the first necessary ingredient is high-speed internet for as many people as possible.  I believe the aforementioned 99% would have to have access to the internet, because that's the only way I can see to scale up education to the necessary size.

On the upside of that problem, the necessary scaling programs are already coming into existence.  Wikipedia provides a worldwide central educational source, Kahn Academy and series like Crash Course are already  experimenting with creating truly educational content online.  If this trend continues, and I don't see why it shouldn't, we could see a developed-world level basic education (K-12) replicated online, in every major language, in an engaging and accessible way, within our lifetimes.

In the process of pursuing that education, by the way, the next step towards weak information equality would be organically embedded.  Internet literacy, which would be a skill that would emerge out of pursuing that online education, gives near-universal access to the shared community of the internet.

Basically, just about everyone on earth would be, culturally, dual citizens of their home country and of the internet.  We can't (and probably shouldn't) eliminate the concept of nations entirely, but having one worldwide neutral ground, as the internet is and will hopefully continue to be, provides the necessary substructure for advanced education.

The cultural expectations and conventions of internet use emerged recently enough that I think they'll likely be a lot more universal* than expectations and conventions of face-to-face interaction in meatspace.  That provides a much smoother segue into higher education, oriented around internet culture rather than specialized to specific countries and then  exported with either an implicit expectation that the recipients conform to the cultural norms in which it was created, or loose and ineffective cross-cultural translation.

There are, of course, hundreds of other worldwide problems that this wouldn't solve, and hundreds of worldwide problems that get in the way of this.  But I think if the majority of the people in the  developing world have access to the same information and communication technology as everyone else, we'll see much faster progress, and much more attention paid to the parts of the world that need it.

*I accept and concede to any criticism that I'm a white male American making guesses about cultural universals, but even if I'm very, very wrong, I still think it'll only be a matter of degree.