The Wisdom of Solomon

By Dan Krut

Last Thursday, as part of the official opening of the Information Commons, Evan Solomon presented his views on the technological and educational era in which we live.
Solomon’s presentation was informative, lively and fun.

"I thought that it [Information Commons] would be like a Kinko’s, some place where you can print or go on-line," said Solomon. "I was amazed at the thought that went into organizing the environment. I think you guys are really fortunate to have this place."

Solomon is someone who has the qualifications to judge the atmosphere of the Information Commons. He’s a journalist, a novelist and television host. Solomon also has a double BA in English and Religious Studies and a Master’s degree in religious studies from McGill University.

Solomon had a lot to say about technology. According to Solomon, he only uses technology if it makes his life more efficient. To illustrate the point about efficiency, he uses a date book instead of a Personal
Digital Assistant.

"I can throw my date book on the floor or I can leave it somewhere and not worry about it getting stolen, but I can’t do with a PDA," he said. "I have nothing against a pda, but I don’t use one because it isn’t more efficient for me. I ask this about technology and information: how can technology serve me? Technology is everywhere. It’s important to be able to use technology, but more important to be able to use technology creatively."
Solomon is concerned with the notion that education is no longer valued; only technical skills are considered relevant in today’s society.

"Politically, it’s very expedient to get people into jobs by training them to use computers," said Solomon. "There’s a culture of apprenticeship. Education is becoming a training ground for computers. People with liberal arts degree feel they have to learn computing in order to get a job or risk being left behind."

In defence of liberal arts students, Solomon said the next big thing in computing won’t be technical knowledge, but finding creative ways to use technology.

"For me, what’s important in education is not training people to use computers because computers will just get easier to use," he said. "I can train people to use computers. What’s impossible to learn is how to organize and find meaning in information. This is the crucial part of education. This is where liberal arts people will become valuable. These people will use the computer like Picasso used the paint brush; they will be extraordinary."

Solomon sees changes happening the digital age.

"Internet will become even more accessible as barriers to entry go down," said Solomon. "We will still pay for some services, like porn, but the internet can sustain many different models and communities will flourish on the internet. Relationships will be the greatest value in the digital age."

Information Commons Project Manager Lori Van Rooijen was thoroughly pleased with Solomon’s lecture.

"His ideas are exactly the concept that the Information Commons is centred around," said Van Rooijen. "He’s also a dynamic speaker."

Among the audience was fourth-year Communications Major and Communication Assistant for the Information Commons Colleen Seto. Seto also enjoyed Solomon’s perspectives on technology and change.

"I found Solomon to be really informative," she said. "He wasn’t preachy and he didn’t focus his talk on companies, but he covered everything."

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