The Cost of Lost Knowledge

Space is a hot topic again. The SpaceX rocket, the first official commercial flight to the International Space Station, lifted off Sunday night. This week, Redbull will ship a man 120,000 feet into the air and let him make a freefall jump in a stratospheric balloon.

These two events are the latest in a wonderful space adventure for humanity that, according to many, started in the 16th century when Nicolaus Copernicus showed that the Earth wasn’t the center of the universe. Many people don’t know, though, that scholars had already made that discovery about 2,000 years earlier.

The library of Alexandria

Alexandria was, for many centuries, the spiritual and intellectual capital of the world. Its famous library had the ambitious mission to collect all human knowledge.

The Greek kings of Egypt thought knowledge was one of their empire’s biggest treasures, and they weren’t afraid to do everything they could to acquire and share it. For example, every boat that came into port was searched for books. If any were found, they kept the original and made copies for their owners. Agents were also sent around the world to find books and bring them back to Alexandria.

That concentration of knowledge allowed scholars in Alexandria to make many discoveries that changed science forever. For example, Euclid was in Alexandria when he wrote Elements, a treatise consisting of 13 books that was one of the most influential works in the history of mathematics and geometry. Herophilus, the father of anatomy, was the first scientist to systematically perform scientific dissections of human cadavers. He also was the first to identify the brain as the center of the nervous system and to realize that the brain, not the heart, housed the intellect.

Erased from the collective memory

Although it seems that many discoveries were made by Herophilus, we only know of a few of them because none of his nine books survived the destruction of the library. The same thing happened to Aristarchus of Samos, who presented the first known model that placed the sun at the center of the known universe with the earth revolving around it. Unfortunately, his books were also burned, and we had to wait about 2,000 years for Copernicus to make the same discoveries.

What impact did the destruction of the library and its hundreds of thousands of books have on the evolution of the human race? Could we have sent a human to the moon sooner if we didn’t have to relearn everything that the scholars of antiquity already knew?

The most important resource

Unfortunately, the tragedy of Alexandria’s library repeats itself over and over again in enterprises. People rarely share what they know with each other, and knowledge stays forever locked in documents or in people’s heads. Employees quit their jobs, and like Copernicus, businesses always have to “relearn” what they already knew.

What if a place like the library of Alexandria existed for these organizations? A place where all the team’s knowledge could be made available to everyone?

At Crowdbase, we deeply believe that people – and their knowledge – are businesses’ most important resources. That’s why we truly want to help them capture, organise, and share it so they can reach their objectives faster and accomplish amazing things.

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