Admittedly, all intellectual work is of this kind, meant to advance knowledge and serve as a place from which to develop more through critique and revision of it. The roundtable addressed the point to some extent, as I recall; we work to make things a little closer to truth, knowing that our work will be used by others to grow a bit closer yet. If things go as they ought, we will all of us be made obsolete.Taking the quote out of context does change its sense, somewhat, but the basic idea is that scholarly work is an exercise in expected obsolescence. Those who do academic work do so in a manner that looks at what is currently known and argues that it does not suffice. Perhaps it is actually wrong. Perhaps the interpretations offered fail to account for new information. Perhaps new and better interpretive tools have been developed and need to be applied. But whatever the reason, what is now known is not enough; more needs to be known, and that necessarily means that what has been known heretofore is obsolete.
If it happens that scholarship continues, and that is not certain, then it is to be expected that the work being done now will be treated similarly. That is, those of us who are working now should anticipate that our own collection and interpretation of information will be superseded, used as a springboard perhaps but left far behind in any event. Our understandings will be found to be incomplete and insufficient, whether because we lack the tools to see what those who will have those tools will see or because something in who and what we are prevents us from looking where they will look who do The Work after we have ceased to do so. Some of us have already begun to see it in how we are cited, used as references to extend knowledge (meaning we did not go far enough) or used as standards against which to push in the effort to make new knowledge (meaning we were somehow wrong).
The thought could be a depressing one. The certain knowledge that we are not enough, that we will never be enough, easily lends itself to despair. Our best work will be surpassed, inevitably, and it will likely be forgotten entirely in the passing of years, buried in archives and never viewed again or fading away amid the background noise of the internet. "Þæs ofereode; þisses swa mæg," after all.*
It does not have to be, though. For if scholarship continues, and those of us who do it now are proven wrong as we have proven wrong those who have come before us, then we have the satisfaction that what we have done has advanced the sum of human knowledge and understanding, promoting a nearer approach to Truth, asymptotic though it be in a universe filled with phenomena that transcend our perceptive abilities. Without us, those who follow will have no place to which to proceed before striking out yet further. And if we are the places from which knowledge is extended, there is no shame or scorn in being the root or stock from which branches and leaves spread.
*Deor. Read it.