What is Xanadu? First, it is not just a specific single program. It is a set of specifications or features for how literature is to be created and read (listened to and viewed). There will be probably just one server type, but perhaps more than one. I don't know that yet. But there will be many ways to interact with that server(s). Xanadu assumes a certain basic philosophical viewpoint in it's design. I don't mean a political or religious philosophy, because those who use Xanadu will span the gamut of those. But a philosophy of knowledge (the technical word is epistemology) that assumes there is not just one "neutral point of view" on a topic, but that everyone is entitled to have their own view and to have the freedom to present it fully and in it's best and fullest context. This is in stark contradiction to the philosophy of the wikipedia, whose moderators believe that everyone should write in a Neutral Point Of View (NPOV). The problem with that, I believe, it that such a thing does not exist. I am biased by my life experiences, knowledge, what I had for breakfast, how much sleep I had, and dozens of other factors. Everyone has these biases, and Xanadu allows for that. The wikipedia does not. The mass media does not, except for allowing a limited number of viewpoints to be considered. With Xanadu, there are no limits to the number of points of view. There isn't just one current version of an article. There may be hundreds, or even thousands. There will be filtering and rating systems in place to find the most or least popular ones, or ones recommended by those you trust, but all will be accessible. They won't be censored by an official editorial board of directors.
OK, enough of picking on wikipedia already. I can just imagine all you wikipedians out there ready to through your mouses through your monitors. I love the wikipedia's contents. I just want to see it worph into a form that truly allows for the diversity of viewpoints that really exist.* I want its' contents to be incorporated into Xanadu when it is implemented. I want to be able to edit any article into my personal version, using what is already there, but reinterpreting it according to the point of view I have of this universe I have lived in. Everyone knows a different set of facts, has lived life with a different set of experiences. There will be great amounts of overlap between what you and I know and believe; but also real and profound differences, and Xanadu seeks to give both the overlap and differences their full expression in their full context.
What is the best way to find out what conservatives, liberals, marxists, capitalists, atheists, Christians, Moslems, evolutionists, creationists, intelligent-designists, materialists, libertarians, mystics and materialists, and thousands of others believe? Ask them to explain their beliefs, fully, in context, without interruption, in as much detail as they desire. But don't just allow for one representative of each categorized system of belief. Allow for as many as want to contribute. And allow each to use each other's material as a starting point and just make any additions, subtractions, and modifications as they want. Don't allow anyone's document in it's original form to be modified, but rather becoming a new version of that document or part of a new document created by the author or anyone else. We can't come closer together as a world by pretending we all agree, which is something that will never happen. It is better to just acknowledge that the differences exist and quit attacking our own straw-man versions of what we think someone else believes. Instead, have direct access and full quotation rights to the actual source documents. The full quotation rights will be granted in advance, upon publication of any document: movie, book, article, song, or multimedia 3D thoughtspace.
Keeping all documents in an unchangeable form, as a version, has great advantages. We can compare it to any other version. We can quote from it and know that it will not dissappear. We can link to it and know the link will not break in the future.
Isn't what we have now "good enough"? Well, it's good enough until something better comes along. Black and white tv was good enough until color came along. Cassette tapes were good enough until CD's came along, then mp3's, etc. But there are some things that were never good enough to begin with. Eight-track tapes were never reliable enough to be more than a passing fad, while cassette tapes are still with us. And I believe the web with it's embedded HTML and other markup is just a passing fad. It is just barely usable, but has so many flaws, that it will force its' own replacement to emerge.
Just saw this in a movie: "What is popular is not always right; what is right is not always popular." - in "10 Things I Hate About You".
* It is easy for those who agree to agree that they agree, much harder to first listen and learn what others believe, fully and in context - before expressing where and why we disagree, or even (if more appropriate) to give it some thought before saying anything. This requires real patience and understanding and a willingness to let our own beliefs form in our own minds, and not just be absorbed unthinkingly from our culture.
I am completely starting over on the Hyperworlds website. Why? For 2 main reasons. I have learned a lot since I started it, so my mental landscape has changed. Also, the web is changing to what is now called "Web 2.0". So my approach needs to be different. I want to still make all the old documents available, as well as incorporating many of them, some with changes, in the new "website". I put "website" in quotes because it will be in more forms than just webpages. If I was using Xanadu, rather than the current tools, I could reformat it into many different views without having to "import" the text and images into each new "view". They would be there already just by selecting that "view".
What would it be like getting an education in Xanadu?
First off, forget everything you know or think you know about how we educate. There are no subjects, no curriculum. Tests and degrees are optional and relegated to secondary status. Start with a massive collection of highly interconnected documents in Xanadu and your curiousity. Your curiosity is your teacher and guide. Now just start reading anywhere, listen, watch, start learning. When you find something you don't understand, leave a marker where you are and look for the answer. When you find it, leave an annotation where you were and a trail of links to the answer you found, along with any notes about your own thoughts on the reasoning and answer to the question. Knowlege-gaining becomes a cumulative process of following your curiosity, seeking answers to your questions, finding paths to reaching your goals. But you can be as much of a particapant in the process as you want. Instead of just reading a pre-defined textbook in which you have no input, you are helping to write the next version of it, and it is not confined to the narrow walls of two book covers. You have stood on the shoulders of many giants and add to what they built in many areas. Someone else stands on your shoulders and keeps right on going. Forget the constraints of editors, peer-review approval, printing presses that solidify knowledge into unchangeable chunks of wood slivers, and requirements that you be degreed into a narrow specialty before you can comment on it. Some of those will still be possible even inside Xanadu, but they will be parallel threads, not the whole fabric. After you have accumulated a reasonable amount of expertize in a "field" of knowlege, and wish to be "certified", you can take the necessary tests and be officially recognized, if that is needed. But if you are working on an open source project or a more enlightened company where competence is more important than degrees, you can just go to work (perhaps building that next Xanadu front-end view).
Xanadu is pluralism taken to the extreme, so all options are always open for exploration. In fact, I think the dictionary definition of pluralism is too narrow, and will have to be redefined after Xanadu, or a new word invented to encompass the new possibilities.