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Encyclopaedia Britannica

In the house where I grew up, we were fortunate to have a full collection of Encyclopaedia Britannica books available.


They were gorgeous, burgundy, leather-bound treasure troves of knowledge, and at the time, they cost a small fortune.


But my father, an entrepreneur who grew up on a farm in Sicily and only earned a grade five education before proceeding to enroll in the School of Life, always emphasized the importance of education to his children.


He wanted a better life for us and those books represented an investment in our future.*


I was a huge nerd as a child who loved to read and learn, so I read many of those books cover-to-cover, starting with "A". I think I made it all the way to "L" before someone told me you weren't supposed to read an encyclopedia set cover-to-cover, so my knowledge of subjects beginning with the letters M through Z is noticeably less developed.


All of this sounds quaint, I know. But keep in mind that my childhood happened before the Internet existed for most of the general public. So that Encyclopaedia Brittanica set was a huge resource for me whenever I had to do research for my school reports; it saved me from having to visit an actual library, the nearest of which wasn't particularly close to where I lived.


Eventually, all four kids grew up and moved out of our childhood home. And my parents sold the house... and threw those beautiful Encyclopaedia Britannica books in the trash.


Because by then, the Internet had become widely available. And the information contained throughout the Internet was far more vast, far more diverse, and far more current than could ever be possible with a bound set of books.


Those books, once invaluable, had become obsolete.


The sum of everything you know today is just like that Encyclopaedia Britannica set.


Today, your knowledge is extremely useful and makes you extremely valuable.


But given the choice, would you rather be Encyclopaedia Britannica or the Internet?


Obsolescence is a choice.

 

* Because they cost a small fortune and looked great on display in our den, it might not be a stretch to say they also served as a status symbol of sorts for my father: social proof that he had achieved a certain level of success with his business despite the many obstacles he faced. Both things can be true, of course.

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