Knowledge Organisation


Kim H. Veltman

Panel: Prometheus Unbound Again: More Questions than Answers

Citizens of the Electronic Village, Couchiching Institute on Public Affairs, 1996
Conference Proceedings, 1996, pp. 23-28.

I'm honoured to be back. I have only three points today. I want to say a little bit about some of the amazing things that are happening. I want to talk for a few minutes about dangers and I want to say that what we think of, or talk of, as if it was finished, is really only beginning.

About the revolution. Most of us aren't aware of just how great this is. The Vatican library, run by a Canadian, Father Boyle, is being scanned in page by page, 20 megabytes a page, 150,000 manuscripts and this is going on. IBM is doing this. It's being paid for, not by IBM, but by a collection of Catholics at the University of Rio de Janeiro. But IBM has a vision to work on the digital library and so just to be sure they're not just dealing with Catholics, they are also scanning in 50,000 manuscripts of the Luther Library in Wittemberg. And just to make sure it's not just Eurocentric they've also scanned in 10 million images of the Edo Museum in Tokyo.

One of the very dramatic things at the G-7 Information Society exhibit last year was that they had a little high definition television that was linked by satellite to Tokyo and another monitor here that was linked by the Internet to the Vatican - to Rio de Janeiro, actually, - and showed those images simultaneously. IBM is one brilliant example of this global vision. But it's only one.

The Bibliotheque Nationale de la France is in the process of scanning in full text - 400,000 books. The Bibliotheca Nazionale in Florence has already scanned in 1,200,000 pages. The Louvre has scanned in every single one of its paintings. The Uffizi has scanned in every one of its 1,300 paintings and is in the process of scanning them in high definition - 1.4 gigabytes per square metre. That means you can go right down and check the tiniest of details.

Those who saw my talk three years ago; those pictures were really at about half a megabyte each. So the quality of these images is 2,000 times the quality of the images you saw on the screen a few years ago. This is part of a global vision. And people think that they can make a lot of money on this. About three and half years ago a man by the name of Bill Gates walked into the office of Monsieur Mitterrand and offered him $2 billion in American for rights to the whole of French culture.

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