From Land to Information

Where is the wisdom we have lost in knowledge? Where is the knowledge we have lost in information?

—T. S. Eliot

Sometimes, to look ahead we must look back, in this case, way back, to feudal Europe circa 1335 A.D. In the 1330s, England needed wine. It needed wine because in the century before, Norman fashions had become all the rage and your average noble Joe had given up his daily pint of beer for a glass of vin rouge. It needed wine because wine provided vitamins, yeast, and calories to get the English through the long winters. And it needed wine because, well, wine is fun. Given that England was too cold to grow a decent grape, the English required a system of foreign exchange to get their spirits from France. They traded English fleece to Flanders for Flemish cloth (the good stuff at the time), then brought that to southern France to trade for the fruit of the vine. Luckily, the English controlled both Flanders and Gascony (on the west coast of France) at the time. Thus they were able to trade freely, transport safely, and drink to their hearts’ content. For these reasons, and a million other feudal details, the French hated the Brits. In 1337, they attacked Flanders to regain control of the mainland, beginning the Hundred Years’ War, which really lasted 116 years until 1453, when the Brits were finally expelled from continental Europe and went back to drinking beer, a habit they largely retain to this day.1

What does all that have to do with ...

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