The Intersection

i-65de93357a1b2189236ce23df06afb56-matrix_revolutions.jpgIt’s certainly no wonder lots of folks seem confused over the significance of climate change. I recently discussed media driven alarmism, but there’s an equally relevant modern pressure that has enormous implications on our individual and collective attention span.

At the touch of a laptop, iphone, or blackberry, we are exposed to a limitless sea of information without the proper time to process it all. We’ve developed into an extremely fast-paced society that has the tremendous capacity to quickly exchange ideas at rates never before experienced by our species. Welcome to the blogosphere for goodness sake… a wonderland where it’s so easy to get lost.

Just yesterday, we were told arctic sea ice cover is at a record low, Bush will withdraw troops from Iraq, and tigers were rediscovered in an Indian rainforest. We read that CO2 may boost big oil, a shooting star’s trail is slimmer than pencil lead, and why moray eels are even cooler than we realized. The news explained we ought to worry about starving Grey whales, but maybe not so much about a diet high in olive oil. We tried to interpret what Senator Larry Craig really meant about his ‘feet bumping‘ fiasco and watched with sympathy as Britney Spears ran through the motions of her now infamous VMA performance. And of course, all of that came after remembering 9-11.

Hope you caught that because it’s old by now and today’s a new day after all… Yes, it’s obvious why we’re so puzzled over how to separate what’s pressing from all the background noise. It makes me wonder if all the hullabaloo over increased incidence of ADD is in part actually due to our difficulty in adapting to the changing media environment. [Paging Randy Olson: Flock of Dodos anyone?]

Indeed, we live in exciting, pivotal, and troubling times. The speed at which we transmit information occurs faster than anything science fiction could have imagined only decades ago. So while I can’t offer the means to make sense of it all, I do suggest we continue thinking critically about our world and all we encounter in the evolving information matrix. But there is one thing I will assure you. Global warming is frighteningly real. Pay attention!

As for how to cope with the new information age happening in real time, my advice is to hold on tight. We’ve come a long way baby, and in 2007, the world is literally at our fingertips!

Comments

  1. #1 Philip H.
    September 12, 2007

    The thing about those information streams is . . . . wait for it . . . . you can turn them off at any time when feeling overwhelmed. Really, try it, you’ll like it (wait, that’s a long lost TV commercial. Never mind). I know, I know – that’s too obvious a solution. But think about it. Just because CNN or Telemundo is on 24 hours doesn’t mean you have to watch. And you can limit your blogging and chatting time to an hour a day (I really do). And if you commute to work via mass transit (we all do, right?) You can actually read your daily newspaper, in which someone else has taken the time to distill the information stream for you into more manageable chunks.

    SO I’d say it’s more about personnal choice, and our own inferiority complex (I have to know everything about everything or I’m not worth anything) than it is about the information itself. Me, I’ll be on the porch soon enough reading one of those old fashioned, it-has-heft-to-it book things while I watch the fireflies and sip my organic beer.

  2. #2 Douglas Coker
    September 12, 2007

    Education, education, education. Been said before but is worth repeating. A decent set of values helps – sometimes described as POLITICS. Learning how to learn and having a well maintained BS detector – is essential.

    Problem is we don’t all have access to decent education. So much of it is instrumental, aimed at producing compliant consumers who don’t ask too many awkward questions. And for many the world happens to them – they lack agency.

    But sites like this give cause for optimism. Thank you.

    Douglas Coker

  3. #3 Christopher Taylor
    September 13, 2007

    The problem, too, is that because there are such vast amounts of conflicting “information”, meaning that any one person can only process a fraction of it, it becomes all that much easier to only take in information that accords with opinions we may already have. We all do it to at least some degree, often unconciously.

    Do the question becomes, how do we deal with that bias?

  4. #4 Randy Olson, Head Dodo
    September 13, 2007

    You know what’s even better than turning off the TV? Hitting Command Q on Safari when you’ve got five windows opened and you’ve been reading horrible stories from all around the world and it sounds like there is nothing but pain and suffering and horror and stupidity and … you hit Command Q and it all goes away. Ahhhhh.

  5. #5 Norman Doering
    September 13, 2007

    Why did you reference “Brave New World” in your title?

    I recently used it as a metaphor in one of my own posts where I compared Christopher Hitches to Mustapha Mond.

    Doesn’t the reference actually work against your point in an ironic way?

    In Brave New World all the information and hedonistic pleasures available work as a distraction.

    Here’s how Neil Postman put it:

    What Orwell feared were those who would ban books. What Huxley feared was that there would be no reason to ban a book, for there would be no one who wanted to read one. Orwell feared those who would deprive us of information. Huxley feared those who would give us so much that we would be reduced to passivity and egoism. Orwell feared that the truth would be concealed from us. Huxley feared the truth would be drowned in a sea of irrelevance. Orwell feared we would become a captive culture. Huxley feared we would become a trivial culture, preoccupied with some equivalent of the feelies, the orgy porgy, and the centrifugal bumblepuppy. As Huxley remarked in Brave New World Revisited, the civil libertarians and rationalists who are ever on the alert to oppose tyranny “failed to take into account man’s almost infinite appetite for distractions.” In 1984, Orwell added, people are controlled by inflicting pain. In Brave New World, they are controlled by inflicting pleasure. In short, Orwell feared that what we hate will ruin us. Huxley feared that what we love will ruin us.

  6. #6 etbnc
    September 13, 2007

    Is that Neil Postman quote from Amusing Ourselves to Death?

    It’s a fine little book, well worth reading. I recommend it. Reading it changed how I seek information about the world around me.

  7. #7 Norman Doering
    September 13, 2007

    Is that Neil Postman quote from Amusing Ourselves to Death?

    Yes. Yes, it is. Very good! It is a fine little book and I recommend it too.

  8. #8 Sheril R. Kirshenbaum
    September 14, 2007

    Norman,

    I thought the title would be an interesting wink at Huxley given the subject… and I’m glad you noticed. ;)