Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Caution in the Information Age

In the grand scheme of things one would probably say that we live in the Information Age. There was the Bronze Age, the Ice Age, the Stone Age, all good ages. But today is generally called the Information Age because very rapidly, in a J-curve-style manner, our access to knowledge and information has increased like at no time in human history. If you really think about it, a century ago the printed word was the only manner in which to disseminate information, which is fine but in 1909 that meant that for news from San Francisco had to travel across the country - a relatively quick process with the advent of the telegraph - and then be written down and printed down for the world to see. That's a long and arduous process. However, in just those relatively short 100 years we now know about events faster than we even realize that they are news because of media outlets like radio, television, and the Internet. There is a big problem with this however: there is a this terrible oversaturation of knowledge. I understand that knowledge is power, but only when wielded tactfully and appropriately. That's where so many of us go wrong.
In this day and age there is no reason whatsoever to go into a situation uninformed, okay? Let's just start with saying that. Like, if you are going to buy a car there is no reason not know about specifications or available options before you walk into the showroom. Or there is no reason that you didn't know about the sale down at Carson Pirie Scott. That gives. Anything that you would ever want to know is out on the Internet somewhere, and just about every public library in the nation has a computer terminal, so sit down and search around a little. If you can't find the actual information you want the Internet has a phone number you can call. The thing about this is that you actually have to read the articles, you actually have to process what you see. Just reading the headlines and then going in with the assumptions made from those just doesn't cut it because the headline never tells the whole story, okay? The first article you find when typing in "transcendentalism" into your search engine won't always give you everything you need to know. Don't jump to conclusions based on the tip of the informational iceberg, that totally negates the profit of having the information available to you in the first place.
On the flip side of that, don't be over-informed. I know, it sounds like that can't be possible but it is. To return to the car buying example, asking the salesman about the torsion bolts that GM uses to connect the left front strut to the body is going to make you seem just as dumb as when you ask what the difference between a sedan and a hatchback. That is something that people often forget. Knowing too much can actually make you seem like you don't know anything at all. You don't need to know everything, okay? You only know what you need to know. By that I am saying you just need to do enough research on any given subject so that you aren't taken for a fool or worked over; one doesn't have to be an expert at everything. Too much knowledge, or more correctly too much knowledge that isn't handled properly will actually be counterproductive to you as it will cloud up the actual point from being seen. Learning every last detail about every last thing is sort of like killing a dandelion with a flame thrower, okay? Sure it will do the job but you would have been much better served by just plucking it from the ground with your hand.
I guess what I am trying to say here is that the most important thing in this the Information Age is to use caution and common sense. Have the right information for the right situation but ask questions like you don't know a whole lot. That will usually get you to where you need to go because the slightly more general questions will get you pointed in the right direction and your background knowledge will allow you to know if you are being misdirected. That's they key; that's what you are looking for. It's sort of a fine line, which I know is tough, but that's just the way it is. You have to use caution while navigating the Information Age.

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