[Taxacom] iSpecies with Wikipedia

Paul van Rijckevorsel dipteryx at freeler.nl
Mon Mar 31 03:15:00 CDT 2008

From: "Richard Pyle" <deepreef at bishopmuseum.org>
> I don't see this as an argument about algorithms vs. smoke-filled rooms.
> I see this as an argument about the urgent need to "electronify" the
> source information.  Most of this now exists as ink on paper, and neural
> connections within human brains.  Both sets of information need to be
> transcribed into standard, structured, electronic form if we ever want to
> realize the true potential of the internet for solving
> taxonomy/biodiversity needs.  Organizations like BHL and Plazi and others
> are making strides towards transforming the ink-on-paper into electronic
> format.  Now the "buzz" talk seems to be shifting towards a "killer app"
> that *helps* (rather than encumbers or distracts) practicing taxonomists,
> in a way that allows them to much more easily transcribe the information
> contained in their cerebral neural connections into a format that can then
> be  simulatneously available as standardized, structured electronic
> content, and in a form that can also be printed as ink on paper.

> Enabling the electronic capture of these two bodies of (comparatively)
> diffiult-to-access information resources -- without any net cost or
> encumberance to practicing taxonomists -- is, in my mind, the key to
> moving forward with "cybertaxonomy".

The issues surrounding the digitization of printed matter are well known,
copyright figuring heavily among them.

However, the digitization of "neural connections within human brains" comes
with its own set of issues. Here also, there is the matter of ownership, not
only of the person who invested years of work and experience in his human
brain, but in many cases also of the institute he works for, and the
government who financed this work.

Leaving this aside, it is not an easy matter to digitize "neural connections
within human brains": in many cases the most valuable information is of a
nature that so far eluded easy capture. In some fields of expertise it is
possible for an expert to go into the field and identify the most notable
species within a, say, fifty meter radius within seconds. How? With the ever
increasing possiblities to make photographic images (and sound recordings)
it is now easier to gather such information in the field, but this does not
go for information existing in the "neural connections within human brains".

Also, the "without any net cost or encumberance to practicing taxonomists"
sounds facile. If some bit of information is to be put into words, this is
not without without "cost or encumberance": it does take precious time and
considerable effort to be precise (not to mention the fear that once
something has been digitized, it will then be torn out of context, as by
Zipcodezoo.com, and distorted). No doubt there exist very many, as yet
unpublished, photographs in various archives, which would be very useful if
they could be digitized, but this too may require not-insignificant time and
effort, depending on how well-documented they are.

So, digitization may be "the key to moving forward with "cybertaxonomy"."
but this does not necessarily mean it is the key to moving forward with


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