All of the Information

by Dan Jordan

This good read from The New York Times came across my Twitter feed today from their Gray Matter blog (which tends to be interesting). It is a discussion of reader comments on web articles and how they can color readers’ perceptions of things they had already read and it got me thinking.

I love the internet, and I love having it in my pocket. I love having access to nearly all the information there is in the world. It is truly mind boggling to think that to children being born today, this is the default.

But I worry that, as is so often the case, we rush into the technology without taking the time to see how it affects us. This is a theme I am sure I will return to – I can’t help it. Despite my recently professed love for the internet, I can be very much the luddite.

It is wonderful that we can access so much information. But the flip side is that there is simply too much information for any one human brain to handle and so it becomes necessary to filter the information we do consume.

This leads to the kind of dialogue we currently have in the world where people aren’t even speaking from the same set of facts when trying to solve problems. Where one’s views never need to be challenged and where you can always find an expert with a website to validate your preconceived notions about the world.

What this requires, I think, is a new sort of Renaissance Man. One who knows where he stands in the world, but is not afraid of broadening his horizons. One who visits TricycleThe Longing Soul, and Richard Dawkins. One who reads the editorials in The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal.

The world is a bigger and more complicated place than we will ever know, and that is fine. It is bigger and more complicated than any one ideology, philosophy, or religion can encompass. It is certainly bigger and more complicated than you think, no matter how sure of yourself you may be.

Best to explore it a bit. Seek out uncertainty. And be nice to one another in message boards. Because, as with all technology, it will be a force for good or bad depending on how we use it.