One of the strength of the human race, possibly its most important one, is the capability to share knowledge. The oral language was an enabler (or it might have been a consequence…) making it possible both to transfer knowledge as well as to transfer “problems” to someone else who possessed the knowledge to tackle them. The invention of the written language made possible to transfer knowledge (and problems) beyond the barriers of space (you no longer needed to be face to face with the other person) and time (knowledge and problems could be transmitted to future generation in a much more effective way that using oral tradition).
Notice that the transfer of knowledge and problems did not occurred among humans only but also between a person and a tool, a machine. Was the stone block too heavy? Let’s defer the task of pulling it up to rolling on logs and using pulleys… Now, this might seem trivial but it is not! The knowledge to build tools required a leap in human intelligence, the capability to imagine various future steps that could be taken to address an issue an imagine what can be used to help and then build the tool. This kind of knowledge became more and more sophisticated and at the same time the tools became more effective and widespread to the point they started to be taken for granted. Over the centuries the knowledge required for tool building became an asset of few with the majority happy to use the tool without knowing how to build it. The tool was becoming a sort of cognitive commodity.
More than that: our societies, communities, cities, nations, have embedded knowledge in their processes and in their organisation. You may not know how to fix your car but you know that there is a number you can call to get direction to a car repair (or have them coming to pick you up) and the person fixing your car most likely does not know how to manufacture that needed spare part, nor the person who used the lathe to produce that part would know how to build a lathe and so on in very very long chain of distributed knowledge. This is what psychologists call the “transactive memory networks”.
For many centuries we have been living in this symbiotic distributed cognitive space with our tools and our social organisation. Do you know how to build a fork? Most likely no, yet you can use a fork without giving it a second thought.
The books (and previously the tablets, parchments and the papyrus) are ways to transfer both knowledge and problems. So are computers.
In these last decades, and taking more and more steam, computers (machine learning and its siblings) have started to learn by themselves and more than that in these very last few years they have started to produce knowledge.
So we now are confronted with knowledge we inherit from the past, the knowledge we create, the one created by other people irrespectively of their location and the knowledge created by machines.