Yes, Brewster is his real name.
As the founder of the Internet Archive and its constituent Wayback Machine, Brewster Kahle is the world’s most famous advocate for digitization and digital archiving, as well as the world’s most active promoter of “universal access to all knowledge.” And his work isn’t just recognized by scholars; he’s frequently mentioned in popular news sources such as The Guardian, Wired, The Huffington Post, and The Economist, which labelled him “the Internet’s Librarian”. Speaking of Internet libraries: without Kahle’s work Robert Darnton’s Digital Public Library of America probably couldn’t have taken off as successfully it did. As much as I love Robert Darnton, he owes a heck of a lot to Brewster Kahle.
What makes Kahle really amazing, though, isn’t his enthusiasm for digitization; it’s that he advocates for book preservation alongside digitization, claiming that “the physical book that has been digitized is… the authentic and original version that can be used as a reference in the future. If there is ever a controversy about the digital version, the original can be examined.” While this may seem like common sense, a lot of digitization projects actually dispose of the original texts once they’ve been converted to pixels. Kahle and his staff at the Internet Archive, on the other hand, work to preserve the books they’ve digitized, and they acknowledge the “craftsmanship required in putting together great collections of books.”
In short, the man just gets it.
Now, I know what you’re thinking. This guy probably just sits in his basement huddled over a computer all day. He’s probably a complete nerd with no social skills. I mean, he got his BSc in Computer Science and Engineering at MIT. When was the last time you met an Engineer with social skills?!
Just kidding. But only kind of.
Anyway, Brewster Kahle is not only an Internet god; he’s also extremely articulate. In 2007, he gave a TED Talk about the importance of the Internet Archive, and the language he uses is both clear and totally accessible. He also recently appeared in this short documentary, in which he continues to put my public speaking skills to shame.
You can follow Brewster Kahle on Twitter or, if you have a couple of minutes to spare, you can check out his personal blog where he writes about “housing, education, food, and health in the United States.” Is there anything this man doesn’t do?