Tasting the Grain

With the ways that we consume information, it begs a particular question. Do we genuinely process what comes from these inputs? Countless storage and retrieval software declare that we can – web annotation, visualization tools, all-in-one workspaces, bookmark services. Take Dropbox's mission:

We’re here to unleash the world’s creative energy by designing a more enlightened way of working.

That is an emphatic 'yes'. But even with all of these methods making knowledge storage and retrieval easier, the question remains. Sure, you create a more enlightened way of working, but does that software help people understand what it is they are storing and retrieving?

Far from a 21st century concern, this question has been asked time and time again. One passage that comes to mind is almost five centuries old. 16th century philosopher Michel de Montaigne voiced his concern in an essay titled, well, roughly translated to, Of Pedantry. He points out the following:

We only labour to stuff the memory and leave the conscience and the understanding unfurnished and void. Like birds who fly abroad to forage for grain, and bring it home in the beak, without tasting it themselves, to feed their young; so our pedants go picking knowledge here and there, out of books, and hold it at the tongue’s end, only to spit it out and distribute it abroad.

So then we can ask ourselves a variation of the question. Are these software tools only stuffing our memory and leaving the conscience and the understanding unfurnished and void? Are these solutions no better than spitting out grain for others while we have not fully tasted the grain ourselves?

What can be done differently to furnish our conscience and understanding of the knowledge we take in and distribute?