When I say The Internet, i mean all different types of networks be it private, public, governmental etc... all of them.

EDIT: by human knowledge I'm not talking about what people had for breakfast or what the name of someone's dog is.

I'm talking about things that we learn in school. Things in science and history, for example. I'm talking about finding a legitimate answer to any scientific question you ask me (to which there is a known solution).

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    Perhaps you should more tightly focus your question. What are you really interested in discussing? Consider the following: What constitutes "human knowledge"? We certainly don't know the name of Socrates' grandfather, but some human, at some time did. What counts as knowledge any way? "Justified, true belief" is sometimes cited, but what is admissible justification? Once your question is more finely tuned, maybe you should start this conversation by telling us your informed, thoughtful opinion on the matter. That would give us all a jumping-off place. – Geoffrey Dec 22 '13 at 0:30
  • I think this is a legitimate epistemology question. "What is available through the internet" is not a bad jumping-off point for thinking about what knowledge is in the first place. – ChristopherE Dec 22 '13 at 15:41
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    This is not a question about epistemology, this is just a question about whether "all scientific knowledge" can be found today. If the OP meant to ask something else, then it is simply not clear from the question. – stoicfury Feb 15 '14 at 20:10

No. Most human knowledge is not on the internet. Among the kinds of knowledge not available through the internet are:

  • Our myriad individual observations and experiences [example: I know what I ate for breakfast. I know how many pages I read yesterday. I know how many times my houseplant has had white flies.]
  • Forgotten knowledge. Scientist David Ehrenfeld has a great essay called "Forgetting," about the significance of knowledge we have forgotten. [his example: Nobody knows how to build certain parts of a battleship turret anymore, he suggests, even though many people knew that only decades ago.]
  • Non-propositional knowledge. Many philosophers have argued that we have knowledge when we know how to do things we can't entirely communicate in words [ex: how to play a trumpet well], even if we can record demonstrations of them online or write out instructions about them. Even a full recipe online is typically an incomplete account of how to cook something well.

I have always been struck by Russell Mittermeier's comment that when scientists Ted Parker and Al Gentry were killed in a plane crash, they "carried two-thirds of the unpublished knowledge of Neotropical biodiversity in their minds." I think that immense knowledge is in all three of those categories. So is that I can't remember how to make the toaster at my old house work.

Adding in response to question-edit: I don't think there is a principled way to draw the distinction between knowledge "we learn in school" and things we don't, and I think that is a different distinction than the one between "history and science" and things that aren't history or science. What someone had for breakfast now and then has a place in academic history; what a bird has for breakfast can have an important role in science.

My point is that (1) it's clear that not all scientific knowledge is on the internet, in so far as a lot of scientific knowledge isn't published at all, some has been lost or forgotten, and much remains undigitized or otherwise inaccessible. (2) The very blurry distinction between scientific or historical or otherwise putatively-important knowledge and what doesn't fall in that category means that it's impossible to answer what proportion of it is online, other than "not all."


Knowledge is constantly being created (or "mined") because observation never ceases and this adds to and refines the sumtotal of knowledge. I claim this never ceasing observation continuously adds to both scientific and less formal kinds of knowledge.

Now even if one claims that most of that knowledge eventually becomes digitally encoded and eventually migrates into a network, there's always some knowledge in a pre-digital or un-networkable state. As this newly minted knowledge becomes digitized (or made communicable) and migrates onto a network, more undigitized knowledge is created. There will always be an emerging vanguard of undigitized knowledge, at least for the foreseeable future.

Add this to the fact that ChristopherE points out that some knowledge never becomes digitized/networked, possibly never gets communicated in any way.

So no, all useful knowledge isn't on a network and probably never will be.


No, most knowledge will not be on the net, and is unlikely to ever be so. What is available is information. For information to become knowledge it has to be synthesed in the understanding; and only human beings, that is people can understand. We are far from articulating understanding in automatic forms i.e AI - although no doubt simulations of such will be helpful, and in future will be indispensible.

Scientific knowledge is known & understood by scientists. Knowing that mass is energy is a fact, and knowing that fact, or additionally many other facts adds up to a great deal of information but very little actual knowledge. This kind of ostentatious display of fact-mongering is something that the net is very good at.

The net also is very good at the classification of information, which is the division of thought & knowledge. In many ways it displays the banality & spectacle of information rather than the profundity of knowledge and insight.


Most scientific knowledge can be obtained across global networks. As another poster mentioned, all knowledge is not available since all knowledge is not purely scientific per se. However, most resources can easily be found through the internet, indexed by giants like Google.

The available information one can use online to increase knowledge is beyond the equivalency of many paid college semesters. It is not true though that scientific knowledge is only understood by "scientists", since being a scientist is vague. I can pick up a chemistry book, start with the basics, study linearly and become a "scientist" in less than a year or two all by myself.

The fact of the matter remains that there's more to "knowledge" as a whole than just science itself. But the resources are all there and available for learning.