For centuries people have been simultaneously fascinated by what’s inside the human body and squeamish about getting close enough to a cadaver to actually find out. “There’s this tension between the desire to know, and what it takes to get that knowledge,” said David Jones, a historian of science at Harvard Medical School and one of the curators of a new exhibit on the history of anatomy at Harvard’s Collection of Historical Scientific Instruments.
The Body of Knowledge exhibit, which opened last week and runs through December 5, illustrates some of the ways in which people have wrestled with that tension through the ages. Science, culture, and religion have all played a role.
“People have been opening up and breaking apart human bodies for a very, very long time,” said Katherine Park, a science historian at Harvard and another of the exhibit’s organizers. “But it’s meant different things in different times and different places.”
Twenty-five years after the Web’s inception, its creator has urged the public to reengage with its original design: a decentralized Internet that remains open to all.
Speaking with Wired editor David Rowan at an event launching the magazine’s March issue, Tim Berners-Lee said that although part of this is about keeping an eye on for-profit Internet monopolies such as search engines and social networks, the greatest danger is the emergence of a balkanized Web.
“I want a Web that’s open, works internationally, works as well as possible, and is not nation-based,” Berners-Lee told the audience, which included Martha Lane Fox, Jake Davis (aka Topiary) and Lily Cole. He suggested one example to the contrary: “What I don’t want is a Web where the Brazilian government has every social network’s data stored on servers on Brazilian soil. That would make it so difficult to set one up.”
It’s the role of governments, startups, and journalists to keep that conversation at the fore, he added, because the pace of change is not slowing—it’s going faster than ever before. For his part, Berners-Lee drives the issue through his work at the Open Data Institute, World Wide Web Consortium, and World Wide Web Foundation, but also as an MIT professor whose students are ”building new architectures for the Web where it’s decentralized.” On the issue of monopolies, Berners-Lee did say that it’s concerning to be “reliant on big companies and one big server,” something that stalls innovation, but that competition has historically resolved these issues and will continue to do so.