“Where is the knowledge we have lost in information?”*…
The MIT Media Lab’s Pantheon Project aims to restore some of that knowledge…
You were not born with the ability to fly, cure disease or communicate at long distances, but you were born in a society that endows you with these capacities. These capacities are the result of information that has been generated by humans and that humans have been able to embed in tangible and digital objects.
This information is all around you. It is the way in which the atoms in an airplane are arranged or the way in which your cell-phone whispers dance instructions to electromagnetic waves.
Pantheon is a project celebrating the cultural information that endows our species with these fantastic capacities. To celebrate our global cultural heritage we are compiling, analyzing and visualizing datasets that can help us understand the process of global cultural development. Dive in, visualize, and enjoy…
Readers can lose themselves in Pantheon, exploring the relative cultural output of different regions in specific domains, like innovation:
… or the cultural output across all domains of a particular nation:
… even the overall rankings of individual contributors to culture over time:
There are, as Pantheon’s keepers freely acknowledge, biases built into the methodology; they continue to work to overcome them. Still, it is a fascinating– and altogether absorbing– resource. Check out the rankings engine here; the visualization engine here; and these videos, by way of background:
As we consult the league tables, we might recall that it was on this date in 2010 that the overdue fines on two books checked out but never returned by George Washington from the New York Society Library (the city’s only lender of books at the time of Washington’s presidency) reached $300,000.
The library’s ledgers show that Washington took out the books on October 5, 1789, some five months into his presidency at a time when New York was still the capital. They were an essay on international affairs called Law of Nations and the twelfth volume of a 14-volume collection of debates from the English House of Commons.
“We’re not actively pursuing the overdue fines,” the head librarian Mark Bartlett said at the time. “But we would be very happy if we were able to get the books back.”