Lately in my research and report on Las Vegas, i found that info from http://wikipedia.org/ competes and sometimes better than my beloved Microsoft Encarta encyclopedia (which has a much inferior online representation http://encarta.com/). For example, i've checked on Eiffel Tower, Arc de Triomphe, Las Vegas, Excalibur. Then, i tried to check something i knew, such as math or Bertrand Russell, and wikipedia indeed has veritable content.
Online free encyclopedia has come of age. Note that it is contributed by nameless any joe. You can right now go to wikipedia and create or edit its pages. You don't even need to register or login. It is quite amazing that such system works at least ok if not well. Such success implies implicit cooporation and good will of people. Its conntributors are mostly passionate computer geeks. (the same class of people who started Internet).
The internet is amazing. The gist of this machinery with respect to progess is the efficiency it creates in communication. In my opinion and as well as Bertrand Russell's opinion, utopia comprises two elements: Knowledge and Love. Knowledge is not just academic understanding but includes possession of any info big and small. Love is more or less good will. No good society can come missing either. For knowledge, communication and its efficiency is of paramount import. To understand this, just image for a moment if everyone now know everyone else's thoughts and knowledge. (imagine our brains are all inter-connected). This would render speech ridiculously redundant and inefficient. (speech, is a fundamental construct of the survivalistic superiority of human animals over other animals). If all forms of communication can take place in the mind in lighting speed… it's quite something to think about what would happen…
Wikipedia is not the only such success of nameless cohort efforts. There's quite a few big and small and with varieties of goals implicit or set-down. There's the FreeSoftware group (e.g. Open Source) who have created countless softwares cooperatively across continents thru the net. Wikipedia is in fact a spin-off. On the other hand, internet itself is a giant network of data, contributed by individuals in a unprecedented massive scale without them even knowing it.