Historians have estimated that human civilization was set back by as much as a thousand years when the Library of Alexandria was burned done. The Library was a massive storehouse of the knowledge and cultures of the ancient world, and had emerged as a gathering place for scholars and intellects from across the Mediterranean and beyond. No one is sure of how, why, or even when the library burned down, and in fact, scholars speculate that the library was burned down several times.
Now, a development team is looking to prevent any future “Library of Alexandria events” by building an online, peer-to-peer repository of knowledge. Experts are pointing to a rapid decline in paper books as part of a growing trend away from paper and towards ebooks. While ebooks can be highly convenient, they might leave human knowledge vulnerable to network outages, computer viruses, government censorship, and other risks.
The new Alexandria is looking to make itself fireproof, an indestructible repository of human knowledge and civilization that that will be able to survive any disaster. By creating such a vault of knowledge, the program’s developers hope to help humanity avoid another “Alexandria event”, referring to the massive loss of knowledge when the Library of Alexandria burned. And the developers behind Alexandria are looking to accomplish this by using some bitcoin-based technology, specifically the blockchain.
If you’re unfamiliar with bitcoin’s blockchain, we’ll go ahead and give you a brief overview. Bitcoin works by harnessing the power of the community in order to create a massive public ledger, called the blockchain. This blockchain contains all of the information regarding every single bitcoin transaction ever made.
Instead of running high-powered servers and processing stations to track all of these transactions, bitcoin has the community “mine”, or build the blockchain itself. Those people and companies who mine, and thus support the whole system, are rewarded with bitcoins. The blockchain is mined in “blocks” of transactions, hence why the ledger is called a blockchain (get it, it’s a chain of blocks).
This is a bit of a simplification, but you should get the basic idea. When people say bitcoin is a peer-to-peer currency, they are referring to the fact that it’s the community itself that supports bitcoin, and one of the most important contributions the community can make is to support the development and expansion of the blockchain.
Now, Alexandria is looking to provide a similar peer-to-peer community driven for storing and collecting humanity’s knowledge. As brilliant as the thinkers of ancient civilizations were, we’ve come a long ways since then. The combined collection of human knowledge is too vast to be held in any single physical library.
Consider that the English version of Wikipedia, the community-driven encyclopedia, is estimated to be 7,473 700 page volumes long, and is growing each day. Wikipedia, as amazing as it is, represents only a small, cursory sampling of humanity’s knowledge.
Alexandria aims to be even bigger, and to become the one-all depository of human knowledge. In order to reach such a massive size while keeping costs low, Alexandria is using blockchain technology. “Central hubs” won’t be used, but instead a network of peer-to-peer computers will be created using blockchain technology.
So what’s this mean? The full details haven’t been outlined, but the Alexandria project will allow people to self-publish whatever content they want, whether it be articles, videos, artwork or anything else. Only the publisher will have the ability to remove the content, according to the development team. It’s believed, however, that publishers will have to pay some sort of fee in order to publish content.
While the Alexandria project team has not yet released details, they do plan on offering financial incentives for those who support the “mining” of the blockchain.
If you would like to donate your time, or perhaps some bitcoins to the project, you can do so on the Alexandria blockchain team’s website.