Encyclopedia Britannica was founded 240 years ago. It contains approximately 150,000 articles in English. Wikipedia was founded in 2001. It contains 1.7 million articles in English, approximately 7.2 million in 251 languages. The range, scope and detail of articles on Wikipedia is so much greater because it harnesses the power of the Internet to access a much larger pool of knowledge and expertise than any other encyclopedia. How was such a remarkable feat possible?
Wikipedia taps into the unorganized knowledge of all humanity, which is potentially infinite. For the first time in history, a social organization has been devised that not only permits access for all humanity to the world's organized body of knowledge. Equally important, it provides a means to access and organize that which has previously been inaccessible and unorganized. No longer does knowledge have to be gathered, processed and concentrated in a single center in order for it to be distributed. Now whatever knowledge exists anywhere in the world -- even if it is possessed by only a single individual -- can be accessed by anyone.
What is true of knowledge is true of other resources as well. Wikipedia not only harnesses knowledge. It taps a huge reserve of human time and energy that is made available at no cost. Britannica has a full-time staff of about 20 people and 4000 paid contributing experts. More than 100,000 people contribute to the English edition of Wikipedia without receiving compensation. The internet taps the unutilized human capacity that is ready, willing and often eager to be productively engaged. Today their are hundreds of millions of people in the world with idle time, capacity, and unutilized energy. Not everyone needs to work for a living. Retired people looking for productive occupation, young people with special interests, the temporarily or permanently disabled -- anyone with time, energy and even limited capacity -- can be productively engaged through the Internet helping other people or building a better future for humanity.
Companies such as Slim Devices are also harnessing talented, technically qualified unutilized human resources to help them develop new products and services that they lack the expertise or the financial resources to generate on their own.
What Wikipedia has done for encyclopedias will very likely be done in the near future to create a global, multimedia educational curriculum for all levels from primary to postgraduate far superior in content, quality and easy of learning to anything offered by the top universities in the world.
The potential implications of the Internet for social advancement are mind-boggling. Today the world generates sufficient employment opportunities to eradicate unemployment from the face of the earth. The only problem is that we do not know where and what all those opportunities are. Pooling all the available knowledge in the world regarding work that needs to be done, job vacancies in both the organized and unorganized sectors, skill requirements, self-employment opportunities, pay scales and costs of services which are indicative of surplus or shortage of workers would provide educational institutions, governments, enterprises and job seekers with all the information necessary to create Jobs for All.