Wednesday, June 01, 2005

The Information Age – The Dawn of Advanced Civilization or The Down Fall?

I can safely say that we are in the age of information. Information for anything and everything is at the tip of our fingers. However bizarre, however rare, we can search for information that we’re seeking because there are other freaks out there just like you.

The old saying is that knowledge is power, and I think that still holds true. However, people are mistaking information for knowledge. The simple fact of having more information and even knowing more information does not equal to having knowledge. Information is simply data that means very little by itself. Knowledge is the collection of that information and interpreting, synthesizing, and most importantly, filtering the relevant and important data.

An adverse impact that people are really not seeing from the information age is how compatible are we really to receiving all this information? The growth of information and availability of information has happened in less than one generation. From an evolutionary perspective, this change has happened too quickly and our biological make-up (esp. the brain) is not ready to handle all this information. This is not true for all or perhaps even most people, but there is a good segment of the population that is becoming a prisoner of information.

What happens to the human mind when it is bombarded with so much information is that it will naturally try to protect itself. The way to do that is to slow down or even stop higher level functions which is what is required for higher-level cognition (how knowledge is developed) in order to process all the information that’s coming in. Instead of developing knowledge, there is so much information that the brain is bombarded with, it has to deal with the quantity and in turn not leaving enough resources for quality. That’s where it leaves us, with low functioning thoughts and scattered information.

What also occurs when the mind is bombard with information is that it will try to process the information as quickly as possible between those that it considers important or relevant, and that it considers junk. This may be a major cause in the polarization of the population today. People are only taking in and seeking information that conforms with their viewpoints. For example, conservatives getting information from conservative sources and same with liberals only getting their information from one source.

Information that aligns with what one already thinks is much easier to digest and process whereas information that maybe counter to what one thinks will induce conflict and actual thinking on the subject. With the brain already so overloaded, it will automatically take in only similar information in order to ease the burden and protect itself.

The result from this is what you see today. People are militantly polar. There is no in-between. Everyone thinks they are right, and they now have all this information at their finger tips showing them that they are right. There’s no dialogue between the 2 sides, each side holes up with only information that supports their argument and never sees the other view points.

We created the information age as a way to share information and to increase the communication among all of us. Although that has been accomplished, the side effects are no doubt appearing as well. The ease of information has allowed humans to succumb to a very basic human flaw which is a desire for power and righteousness. No matter what our thoughts or ideas are, no matter how wrong, we can no doubt find someone with similar ideals and hence the strength in numbers and affirmation.

No longer do we communicate in dialogue and get to understand different sides in order to increase our knowledge about the topic. We simply find information to support what we think and because of the ease of finding this information, we no longer ever need to consider other viewpoints or the fact that we maybe wrong about some things.

Although I cannot quote it directly, Freud said once that humans created technology and looked to it as their savior, but technology will not become our savior, but our master.

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