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Our Insatiable Appetite for Information

January 15, 2011


I find the above cartoon entertaining and thought-provoking. I have been thinking about information technology a lot lately. All of this stuff is really cool, don’t you think?  But what is the point of this technology? Why has it become so important? 

I think that people use technology in order to learn something, to gain knowledge. We live in an insecure world and there is security in knowledge. We want to control things and information gives us control. We use phones and pads, texting and email,  navigation systems and the web to gain instant information, right? 

We ask, “Where are you, what are you doing, when will you be here or there, will you pick up some XY or Z at the grocery?  What is the best type of “Widget” and where can I get one for the best price?  Where am I? Where is the Acme Corp? When is the movie playing? What are the reviews on it? Where’s the closest gas station? How much money do I have in the bank? What’s the weather like in Timbuktu? What can I do/buy to fix the problem with my health/house/vehicle or relationship?” The possibilities for knowledge enrichment seem endless, but does all of this knowledge truly enrich us? Does it get us somewhere that we want to be?

I know you’ve been there. Where? In the “Now, how-did-I-get-here?” Place. You get up in the morning and remember that you have to check out that thing. Yeah, you know the one.  So, boot it up, turn it on. It’ll just take second. Yet, one search leads to another and another and next thing you know you are in Podunkville, 25 miles from the smooth and seemless information highway.  Bump, bump, bump. You pull off the dirt road, dig out the dogged-earred old map (’cause there’s no reception for the GPS way out here), take a deep breath and look around. You can’t remember which left turn got you here. And now “Bubba” wants to know why you are on his front lawn in your PJs?!  Okay! Ummm? Heh-heh-heh.  You nervously look around. So….. where did you leave your coffee and fuzzy bunny slippers? “Oh, ahem, thanks Bubba.”   Uhhhhh hmmmmm? Now, what was it that you were looking for? Oh, yes! Information! Knowledge!

I recently heard that it took from the time of Christ up to approximately the year 1750 for the accumulated knowledge of humankind to double.  From 1750 to 1900 it doubled again.  From 1900 to 1950 it doubled again.  From 1950 to 1960 it doubled again, and so on exponentially. It is estimated that presently, knowledge is doubling faster than every 3 years. I have also heard that some estimate that knowledge could double as quickly as every hour if the current rate continues. I am not sure to what information these estimates refer or how “they” came up with them. I’m not sure how accurate this figures are, but if they are anywhere near to close the thought is mind-boggling.

More knowledge is a good thing, isn’t it? It has helped people to cure diseases, right? Technology is great. We can access the internet while sitting on the beach. That’s a good thing!? Email is useful and blogs are fun. I can even use the Net to help me make supper. If I’m running in a rut  menu-wise, Yahoo, Google or Bing will quickly dish-out a dump truck full of delectable delicacies within a decisecond. I merely drum my digits on the dear Dell and wow!! I can make an artichoke-asparagus-avocado extravaganza or a bit of Zebu-Zebra Zambian stew. Well, maybe it’s not all good.

So, let’s get to the point. Cut to the chase. Knowledge can be useful or useless. More of something does not translate into better. Faster does not equal happiness. Knowledge does not equal wisdom. Too much information can be confusing. How do we organize it all? Can all of this information be useful, valuable or true? I think not.  I don’t believe that “everything is relative” thinking results in orderliness or usefulness. I find that relative thinking (thinking everything is equally as good or bad according to the time/person/situation) is disorderly, it creates confusion. Confusion is bad or at least I think so. Information and knowledge should lead to good things, should they not?  Don’t you want your information to be verifiably true? Good? Truly good? I do. I don’t have peace about trusting in unreliable information. I’d like to KNOW that my knowledge is useful, is true. Now that’s something I can rely upon. Absolute Truth! I need an unmoving reference point. I want a standard; I like reliability. I find no peace in the possibility of the hourly doubling of knowledge. When do you know what you know what you knew is true? This kind of exponential increase would seem to lead to a doubling of questions as well as answers and in the end, less peace of mind. I believe that’s what we see as we look around. Less peace. Less security. More disharmony. More anxiety.

So, how do we use all of this technology? I think it there should be an objective to our “searches” don’t you? Shouldn’t there be a good purpose? What is the point to all of this information and knowledge? Should it not lead to wisdom and understanding? I contend that we should be applying our knowledge wisely. Knowledge should lead to wisdom.  If this explosion of technology is truly good and helpful then shouldn’t we be becoming exponentially better people? A  more peaceful, loving, kinder, gentler,  and just generation should be emerging from Silicon Valley and the Nano-world. That is not reality however.

This post has become quite a long one and I have a few other thoughts to share. So, more musings on this topic are sure to follow.  Other related topics for consideration in this series might be, “Why is this increase in information and knowledge not leading to notable increase in wisdom and goodness?” And “Is there any information that can, when gained, lead to wisdom  and goodness, peace and security?” More to follow.

Will Melissa go batty trying to answer these questions? Will she ever get to the real point? Tune in next time to find out, same Blog-time, same Blog-channel.

One Comment leave one →
  1. ksb08 permalink
    January 19, 2011 4:39 am

    Very interesting…
    You have voiced many of my thoughts. One thing I know, is that there are certainly dangers to the amount of information that can be held in the palm of the hand (and looked out without anyone else being able to see).

    Today’s technology feeds the prideful ‘I know it all’ attitude because at the touch of a finger…you have access to more information than even the smartest person had stored in their minds just a few years ago. But with so much information…you really can’t classify it all as knowledge because we have become too lazy today to think for ourselves and to test to see if what we are even being told is true. Much of the knowledge at our fingertips is faulty and we swallow it all as truth…..very dangerous.

    Okay…those are just a few Kelly thoughts to add to your book…

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