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EX LIBRIS: Simon Winchester

Fri, Nov 17, 2023 @ 5:30 pm6:30 pm

Simon Winchester has long been a font of far-reaching, deep-digging, and sometimes delightfully arcane knowledge: from the stories of all-but-forgotten men who shaped civilization to the secrets of the world’s great oceans to seismic catastrophes that literally changed the world. Now, this New York Times bestselling author takes on his most elemental subject – knowledge itself.

In Knowing What We Know: The Transmission of Knowledge: From Ancient Wisdom to Modern Magic, Winchester takes a millennials-long journey through the story of how knowledge has been acquired, stored, and passed on, how that dissemination has evolved with time, and how – in an age where a world of information is just a cell phone away – the thoughtfulness and wisdom that derives from knowledge might be under threat.

Winchester takes us back to before the ancients Greeks, to medieval Germany and Victorian Belgium, to the creation of the first encyclopedias and the phenomenon of Wikipedia, and even to contemporary Bangalore, India, where a network of schools ignites the spark of curiosity for once-hopeless slum children. The human impulse to know things, to understand what they mean, and to apply that understanding has been the bulwark of civilization. But nowadays, Winchester wonders, when the information in any library can be retrieved effortlessly on a handheld device, what are the implications for humankind? If computers are more powerful than even the greatest human brains, what will it mean for society? If we no longer have a need for knowledge – if computers do it all for us – then what is human intelligence even for? In short: What is knowledge without wisdom? And what would a world without wisdom look like?


Simon Winchester is the acclaimed author of many books, including The Professor and the Madman, The Men Who United the States, The Map That Changed the World, The Man Who Loved China, A Crack in the Edge of the World, and Land, all of which were New York Times bestsellers and appeared on numerous best and notable lists. In 2006, Winchester was made an officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE) by Her Majesty the Queen. He resides in western Massachusetts.