Wikipedia is one of the most important websites on the internet. It's also one of the most self-important. Now, Wikipedians are trying to get the site listed alongside the Grand Canyon and the Pyramids on the UN's "world heritage list."
Wikipedia is launching a petition drive to become the first digital world heritage site. Founder Jimmy Wales tells the New York Times that "The basic idea is to recognize that Wikipedia is this amazing global cultural phenomena that has transformed the lives of hundreds of thousands of people." All true!
The problem is that to be included on the World Heritage List alongside the Great Wall of China, Wikipedia must be found "to represent a masterpiece of human creative genius," which it's not. Now, we like dorking around on Wikipedia as much as the next person. And Wikipedia's startlingly complete entry on "The Muppets" is a masterpiece of… something. We would all be worse off without Wikipedia, for sure.
But Wikipedia resembles less the masterpiece of a genius than the fixation of an idiot savant. You know: grinding out articles through endless pedantic debate. Wikipedia's strength lies in thousands volunteers who care desperately about things most people have never even heard of. And this works great, most of the time! But making risky choices, demonstrating unorthodox thinking—the hallmarks of genius—are a quick way to get your Wikipedia edits swarmed by a thousand angry moderators and bombed into oblivion.
Wikipedia is about as much a "masterpiece of human creative genius" as 4chan. [New York Times, image via AP]