The internet provides us with more information than you can shake a mouse at. We can google any topic and find ridiculous amounts of information – that to read in its entirety would take months if not years. I could give a billion examples. There’s nothing you can’t look up, except for maybe the restaurant a friend told me she’d heard about called something like “Alibaba’s 9 wives”. I’ll admit I never was able to locate it. So let’s say you have a problem to solve: your company is failing or your dog is ailing. You can start reading but you will have to be selective or else your company assets could be sold off and the dog dead by the time you’ve read all the potentially useful stuff.
Say you follow anywhere from 200 to 500 people on Twitter. (I have no idea what the averages are for this…bear with me). And say 100 of these people post links to articles on subjects you’re interested in professionally or personally. That’s 100 articles a day to choose from, on subjects of your choice, popping up in your Twitter account. 500 articles a week. 26 000 a year. And that’s if these people you’re following only post one link a day.
So there’s a tipping point. The point at which you stop researching and decide to take action. The point at which you stop researching models of cars you might like to buy and walk into a dealership. The point at which you stop researching different diets and pick one to try. I believe the increasing availability of information is leading to analysis paralysis. There is simply too much available, too quickly. You need to act. Most of the time, you’ll be able to go back and research the next step. Unless you were researching property prices or birth methods and have sold the house and had the baby.
I believe the universe is calling upon us to develop other skills. Not recalling information as much as being able to process information and intuit what will serve us. A surgeon can look up 10 ways of doing an operation instantly, but will still be required to choose which method is most suited to the case in front of him. And then the small task of performing the actual surgery of course. A lawyer can look up precedents instantly but will still be required to select which will support his case and which nuance of facts is most closely aligned to those before him. He’ll then have to actually weave the arguments together to convince the judge. I sense that the internet is forcing us to evolve faster and think smarter. Schools and universities have not, for the most part, recognised that this is not a shift in emphasis, but a full scale revolution in learning. Information is not much of a currency anymore. Knowing STUFF is not that valuable. Knowing HOW things work, deep understanding and being able to critically evaluate options – that is valuable. For this reason it may make more sense for a company to upskill an existing employee who understands the HOW, rather than employ a graduate who knows the WHAT, but will take at least 2 years to develop the intuition and confidence to be able to apply that knowledge.
I think the expression “Of those to whom much is given, much is expected” is applicable – in a different sort of way to the concept it usually refers to. In this sense it means that we have been given so much information, that with it comes a greater responsibility. A responsibility to use the information available to heal ourselves and the planet. (At the risk of sounding a little Michael Jackson.)
The research on how our brains have developed as a result of things like the ice-age and human diet is fascinating. If we could look far into the future, I think we’d find that the rise of the internet will significantly affect how human brains think and how we evolve as a species.
But it could go any which way. Let’s imagine just 3 people surfing the net tonight. One is researching how to build nuclear bombs, one is looking up Heal The World lyrics while switching back and forth to Facebook and one is researching solutions to child malnutrition. What are YOU doing with all the information at your fingertips?