Attention as a resource

Is anything more valuable than attention? While it’s a strange thing to see as a commodity, it’s increasingly seeming one of the most sought-after ones within modern life. Given how we talk of “paying” attention, though, maybe some have always been aware of the value of an attentive mind and the power it has over our individual and collective lives.

Isn’t it going to be true, on some level, that what we give our attention to grows? The fuel of our focus on any given thing serving to increase its importance in our lives – effectively giving it more power, more weight. Especially in this world of trends, views, likes and followers: the tangible size of an audience and saliency of a topic having become that much more clearly visible and contagious online.

Almost like there’s this battle for our minds happening on the global scale as everyone’s fighting to capture our interest; win our trust; direct our behaviour. And, perhaps it’s the fact that people – particularly in the West – are largely free to think and do as they please that has “created” this marketplace for ideas and patterns of influence? (Notes One)

Thinking about it, if our moments of freedom are “the things we believe and act upon” then power for directing things presumably rests in gaining our cooperative interest. The field of human psychology – social instincts, persuasive communication – having then become one of the most lucrative subjects to leverage and utilise for whatever ends we might have in mind.

It’s incredible to think how much is now vying for our attention each day; let alone the amount of strategic intelligence applied to finetuning those messages. If we’re being constantly assailed with thoughts about reality – be they optimistic, one-sided, empowering or filled with despair – how much does that impact the conversations we’re having, ideas we’re entertaining and attitudes with which we’re approaching life?

If all we take in is what’s eventually finding its way back out into reality through us, how are we to use the force of our attention? Do we just open the doors and let everything flow in; allowing all these images and emotions to fill the recesses of our minds? Whichever sources we’ve chosen becoming the channels through which we’re establishing our beliefs, assumptions and conclusions. (Notes Two)

There seems such intense interest, now, in gaining loyal followings then using those platforms to affect change. This sense in which so many actors – individuals or organisations – are gathering together those open to being guided by their influence, suggestions and ideas. Whether that’s used for commercial or social, constructive or destructive ends – the agenda behind it – perhaps making all the difference.

It’s strange to think that, the world over, people are trying to gain our ear and shape our thinking. Also, that people are cultivating audiences then giving others access to them – letting them borrow your voice. At every stage of spreading information or understanding, isn’t there immense responsibility to how we’re wielding the power we all have?

Notes and References:

Guardian article “Technology is driving us to distraction” by James Williams, 27 May 2018: https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2018/may/27/world-distraction-demands-new-focus

Note 1: Freedom, responsibility & choice
Note 1: Being trusted to use our discernment…
Note 1: Points of sale as powerful moments
Note 1: Reading between the lines
Note 1: Too much responsibility?
Note 2: Where do we get our ideas from?
Note 2: Information might be there, but can we find it?
Note 2: Is this the ultimate test?
Note 2: All that we add to neutrality
Note 2: Which voice can we trust?

The value, power and significance our attention has, personally and at the level of society, was also the focus of the Guardian article “Technology is driving us to distraction” back in 2018.

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The picture data paints of us

Taking it to be true that humans have never lived as we currently do – that modern technology and all that comes along with it are a new reality on the face of the earth – it seems reasonable to wonder where that’s likely to lead. Isn’t it that people, as a whole, have never had this kind of power or lived under this kind of scrutiny? How it’s going to affect us and the systems that’ll be created out of it can’t be unreasonable concerns.

Often, there seems a kind of inevitability to it all: that certain people or organisations have cast this web around us and we’ve little opportunity at this point to complain or seek to challenge the ideas they may have in mind for us (Notes One). As if our lives are now in their hands, to do with as they please – weaving those lives into whatever configuration they choose while using their intricate knowledge of us to make that possible.

Data seems such a powerful thing. Our lives effectively having been ushered into this alternative reality, before we were fully aware of the risks, and turned into a series of interactions, connections and moments where our every move, decision, thought can be observed, collated and understood even better than we might really know ourselves.

So much of “all we do” being habitual or based on patterns beneath our awareness, anyone tracking and analysing the trail we leave in our wake stands to piece together a picture of us “we” may never truly see. Pulled together, our data must present quite an overview of all we’re imprinting on reality through our existence – a fuller sense of “how we are” than many of us, perhaps, possess.

It’s a knowledge of human nature no one before us seems to have had: a real-time observation of almost everything everyone everywhere is choosing to do with their time. It must be an incredible “picture” of humanity, our concerns and the countless details of our lives. Even as we’re being tempted and distracted in all these new ways, people are watching and learning from the choices we’re all making. (Notes Two)

That certain entities have this intensely personal yet incredibly systemic overview of “humanity” is quite astonishing to contemplate. What are they planning to do with this knowledge of us? What’s it like, psychologically, to live our lives knowing that “someone” is watching all that we do and dreaming up visions for our future? As if we’re all being folded into systems which have their own designs for our lives.

Given how data would only be gathered if it’s seen to be useful or valuable, it doesn’t seem possible to view “all this” as neutral; this observation of us must be being used to inform projects people have in mind for “the world”. That human activity would be “captured” this way, mapped out to such a degree, and used to shepherd us all into some new future surely demands a lot of trust?

Notes and References:

Note 1: Whether we make a difference
Note 1: Overwhelm and resignation
Note 1: Treating people like sims?
Note 1: Shaping the buildings that shape us
Note 2: Freedom, responsibility & choice
Note 2: Pace of change & getting nowhere past
Note 2: Is this the ultimate test?
Note 2: Trust in technology?
Note 2: All in such a rush

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Information might be there, but can we find it?

Given how much “information” we’re now surrounded with in life, it seems that “finding our way within it” might be the real challenge we’re all facing (Notes One). This idea of somehow being able to uncover the fairest, truest representation of our complex realities; the best frame for understanding and wisely responding to this world and all those living within it.

Because much of what’s around us seems like it might be a version of “false” or “unhelpful” – not quite reflecting things honestly or encouraging us to live as humanly as we might hope. Conceivably, all these separate perceptions, experiences or observations of “reality” could be drawn together into any number of worldviews, conclusions and mindsets. But, where do they lead?

Maybe we’re simply living alongside countless fractured, atomised perspectives on life. A million separate thoughts we might pick up and arrange however we see fit. Whether or not those views are compatible, true, or wise foundations for crafting life around might be an important question. Don’t the ideas we have in mind matter? Becoming our justification for all we’re choosing to do in life.

What are we supposed to “make” of all we’re told? All the commercial messages; attempts to influence; ways of interpreting the events or people around us. If we’re living in this incessant shower of ideas hoping to take up place in our minds and inform our actions, what are they? All these assumptions, judgements, suggestions, conclusions, seeds of doubt or of hope. Little thoughts we let in and make our own. (Notes Two)

They must all add up, coming together into a potentially quite strange and contradictory picture of what life’s about. Of all the thoughts we could think, how are we choosing the ones we’re building our life around? How are we evaluating all that passes before our eyes or seeps into our minds through other means? How many find their way in without us really noticing?

Sometimes it’s like we’re surrounded by constantly refreshing mountains of information being churned out and insisted upon. This vast, often frightening, volume of ideas aggressively trying to carve out a space for themselves within our precious, limited mental landscape. As if “to be human” is now a case of filtering through it all to cast aside all that doesn’t serve the reality we have in mind.

Do we listen to all, none or some of it? Should we listen to the loudest, most skilful, or most worrying voices? Those who confirm or who challenge our ideas? What if “all this” is effectively drowning out voices we’d be wise to listen to? And, should we be adding our own voice to the mix or might we be better off holding back somewhat from this ever-flowing conversation that’s now engulfing us all? (Notes Three)

We might argue that “information’s there” for everyone to see, but if the truth’s nestled among a billion more questionable pieces of information how exactly are we supposed to be sure of having found it?

Notes and References:

Note 1: The sense of having a worldview
Note 1: Culture as information
Note 1: Information as a thing, endlessly growing
Note 2: What is the public conversation?
Note 2: Passing on what’s important
Note 2: Which voice can we trust?
Note 3: Joining the dots
Note 3: All in such a rush
Note 3: Whether we make a difference

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Pace of change & getting nowhere fast

With modern technology, it really seems that we’re not at all sure where we’re headed. Yet, still, we’re handing everything over and going with the flow of wherever this may lead. Is that trust, or do we feel there’s very little choice in the matter? That, this being the direction others have set for us, the best we can hope is to keep up and make the most of things.

Of course, it’s perhaps the first time in human history that we’ve been able to develop tools with the capacity to surpass us. The challenge of “how to handle that” must, then, be fairly unique. Never having been in this position before, there may be no truly reliable advice for how we might go about it. Still, though, it’s as if the whole weight of human inheritance rests on our shoulders and asks what our plan is.

Isn’t that where we stand? If history’s this chain through time of things handed down from one generation to the next, aren’t we holding all that in our hands? If “holding our place” in that chain requires us to know, understand, and carry forward all that’s valuable within our way of life, aren’t those capacities arguably some of the most important we might possess?

If civilisation is our world of ideas, isn’t that something we’re handing over to this way of being? If society’s our understanding of the relationships and activities that serve to uphold our lives together, are we handing that over as well? It seems such an incredible moment in our history, and an incredible act of faith on our part (Notes One).

Sometimes it also seems this is truly changing what it is to be human; the pace and complexity of our lives now standing quite apart from anything that’s gone before (Notes Two). Haven’t people, generally, been engaged in quite a slow pace of life? Change perhaps taking a lifetime, while the daily lives within it proceeded step by step in much the same way. “Time” perhaps helping create great focus, strength, understanding and resolve.

By comparison, doesn’t “life with technology” tend to encourage quite a superficial, glitchy, distracted engagement with reality? Forever flitting from one thing to the next; perhaps never fully developing a deep and comprehensive sense of it all. Doesn’t it lead us to expect immediate results and act impulsively in the moment? Replacing the steady commitment of the past with quite a volatile alternative.

Not to say we can’t rise above those tendencies, but technology itself does seem to be strengthening them. Do we let ourselves get swept up with that or, somehow, decide to swim against the tide in another direction? How are we even to see “where we are heading” or “where we might go instead”? Is this fast-moving flow of reflexive, interwoven trends something we can hope to navigate more intentionally?

How much say we have over where we’re heading seems important, though, as it’s hard to argue these things don’t matter.

Notes and References:

Note 1: Things change, over time
Note 1: Where would we stand if this were lost?
Note 1: How ideas find their place in the world
Note 1: Trust in technology?
Note 1: Cutting corners
Note 2: All that’s going on around us
Note 2: The potential of technology
Note 2: Social starting points for modern ways
Note 2: Patience with the pace of change
Note 2: The difference humanity makes

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Is this the ultimate test?

With everything that’s going on these days, it’s fairly tempting to predict that we’re pretty close to “ruining” what we have on this planet – the chance at living. If harmonious coexistence with one another and the life-systems of the natural world are essential factors in ensuring our survival then, given how we’re doing on those fronts, things aren’t seeming entirely hopeful.

It’s just interesting to contemplate all the insight we now have, all the power to shape our future, yet all the rabbit holes we’re being drawn into that might easily threaten any stability that remains (Notes One). It’s incredible how greatly things have changed in the last hundred years or so; and, how quickly we seem to be starting to see it all as normal.

Isn’t “normal” a sense of relationships, meaning, engagement, causality? Having a realistic understanding of where we stand in life and what all of our choices, thoughts and actions really “mean” for the world and every living creature within it (Notes Two). Isn’t “that” the picture of normal, healthy, sustainable existence – the perfect example of which perhaps being that of nature, before we overstepped our boundaries.

Where, then, do we stand now in relation to the world around us? How aware are we of all our lives depend upon and all that our decisions – conscious or otherwise – are bringing into effect? Modern life, in so many ways, is demanding so much more of us. Much as the assistance of technology is superficially making our lives easier, the ramifications it has for us all, individually and collectively, are incredibly difficult to quantify.

If life’s a question of knowing ourselves – who we are, our worth and relationships – and interacting wisely so nothing valuable is lost and everything essential is allowed to remain, how are we to establish that in the face of these challenges? And how much, at this point, is effectively the human psyche run amok over the planet? Our greed, insecurity or intolerance stretching out to make themselves felt the world over.

In a way, modern life seems to be testing us on every level: throwing every conceivable temptation or distraction our way; hiding traditional forms of regulation, such as consequence or social scrutiny; pressing all the buttons guaranteed to drive us crazy with anger or despair. Isn’t this unrelenting demand for awareness and presence of mind asking something more of us all?

But then, evolution’s arguably “always” a question of how best to move forwards. Can we do so by becoming dependent on externalities; letting the “ease” of life now blind us to its inevitable complexities; feeling the justifiable uncertainty of no longer understanding our lives or precisely what they mean? How do we stand against “all this” and become more human, not less? (Notes Three)

Of course, it’s not at all easy to encapsulate the challenges modern life’s presenting us with, let alone agree on ways of addressing them. But can we afford not to try guiding things in slightly more life-affirming directions?

Notes and References:

Note 1: Power and potential
Note 1: Mastering life’s invisible realities
Note 1: Life’s never been simpler…
Note 2: Any escape from cause & consequence?
Note 2: How do ideas find their place in the world
Note 2: Things with life have to be maintained
Note 2: True relationship within society?
Note 3: Problems & the thought that created them
Note 3: Losing the sense of meaning
Note 3: Imperfection as perfection?
Note 3: Questions around choice
Note 3: Cutting corners

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Power and potential

In a certain sense, aren’t we more powerful than the mass of humanity has ever been? This power that comes with knowledge, with the connections of thought and where they can lead. Then, the power that connectedness offers on the more human level: the psychological reassurance of connecting with people rather than being alone and a potential for coordination we’ve never had before.

It’s somewhere between ‘knowledge is power’ and ‘strength in numbers’ – this sense in which ties with others and with information are simply empowering. It’s surely quite amazing we have these possibilities? That the worlds of understanding and relationship are now at our fingertips. All that humanity’s arguably been fighting for all these years is “here”.

Isn’t this what people had been working towards throughout preceding decades and centuries? All-encompassing insight. Drawing together all these disparate experiences and bodies of knowledge into a single conversation and place of reference. The dream of making everything available; exposing it all to the clear light of day; getting everyone on the same page around similar ideas (Notes One).

Knowing we’re not alone, that others hear our struggles and we’re all working together at a better world for everyone, may be humanity’s most beautiful dream – this picture of uniting the globe with common understanding, mutual concern, concerted action. Because don’t we now have the capacity for those things? If only thinking, relating and embracing others and their ideas weren’t so challenging (Notes Two).

As with almost every project, perhaps, reality’s a little more flawed. If technology’s an enshrined understanding of the systems, ideas and functions of human existence, how can we be sure our understanding at that point was perfect? And, if it wasn’t, are we to proceed with imperfect ideas or somehow work to rectify them? If our thinking’s informed by all this, though, where can we stand to correct it? (Notes Three)

Might it not be that modern life risks becoming a caricature of misunderstood, original truth? Our starting points codified, brought to life in new ways, and evolving into strange contorted echoes of fundamental human realities. In technology as much as thought itself, isn’t it true that a false premise might lead to wildly inappropriate outcomes?

Without fully understanding where ideas, theories and solutions have come from there’s presumably a danger we’ll lose the capacity to judge, course-correct or interact wisely with what’s around us. Doesn’t letting things shape our lives without a solid sense of the reality behind it risk us being limited by the design of it all – incapable of challenging the pace of “progress”? (Notes Four)

Modern living’s perhaps easier and more difficult than ever: if we can do and know almost anything, so many boundaries having been removed, it’s effectively up to us all to thoroughly understand what we’re choosing. Do we have the strength – the mental bandwidth – to grasp all that’s going on? And, if those capacities become weakened through reliance or deference to technology, how are we to decide which paths to take?

Notes and References:

Note 1: Culture as a conversation across time
Note 1: How ideas find their place in the world
Note 2: Life’s never been simpler…
Note 2: True relationship within society?
Note 3: Problems & the thought that created them
Note 3: The value of a questioning attitude?
Note 4: Technology as a partial reality
Note 4: Mastering life’s invisible realities
Note 4: Detaching from the world around us

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Mastering life’s invisible realities

So much in life can be seen as invisible – thought, social meaning, feelings, consequences, technology. All these areas where things happen, away from the clear light of day, that truly matter in so many ways. Tangible things are much easier to pin down; this realm of invisibility is something we can perhaps only hope to somehow understand and shed light on.

How do we find out about what we cannot see? With feelings and social meaning, communication – questions, listening, empathy – hopefully helps us understand the inner lives of others, their motivations and struggles, so we stand in better relationship to one another. With nature, we’re relying on science to grasp the theories and knowledge that underpin our place on earth.

In both, it’s this activity of thought that’s helping us see what we can’t – our inner life of perception, interest and understanding seems to be what’s driving us to make sense of the world and connect ourselves with it (Notes One). Don’t we “need” that inner picture of what it all means and what matters in order to engage responsibly and creatively with the realities of being alive?

It’s fascinating, really, that we all carry within us our understanding of life. Through childhood, youth and, hopefully, adulthood we’re constantly developing, expanding and refining this mental representation of all that’s around us – an inner map to help us wisely navigate the external world and position ourselves well in relation to all we find there. Isn’t that the aim? Harmonious integration.

And all this clearly taps into the fundamental importance of education, information, and the like (Notes Two). Isn’t creating and maintaining the inner reality that forms our counterpart to the world around us a large part of what makes us human? How well are we guarding, populating and directing the space that is our mind?

These days, it’s certainly seeming a monumental challenge. Staying on top of all that’s changing in the modern world, filtering out the unnecessary, discerning the important from the unimportant, deciphering the meaning behind the tone of all that’s communicated to us every instant of every day is an incredible concept of what it might now mean to be human (Notes Three).

How well “can” we understand all that’s going on? Every area of activity’s now speeding ahead in all these divergent directions with seemingly little coordination of how well it can fit together. Doesn’t specialisation effectively now place the thinking behind our progress just beyond the reach of most people’s understanding? How we’re supposed to judge the wisdom of all this is an interesting question.

And, of course, technology’s activities are also invisible: we don’t truly see the systems our interactions feed into or how that data is used; we can’t often see the impacts of all we’re engaging with online; we’re not quite seeing the reality of how all this is changing the world around us (Notes Four). How exactly are we supposed to fathom, master and wisely direct all this power we’re now wielding?

Notes and References:

Note 1: Ideas that tie things together
Note 1: Seeing, knowing and loving
Note 1: What are we thinking?
Note 2: Common sense as a rare & essential quality
Note 2: Which voice can we trust?
Note 2: How ideas find their place in the world
Note 2: Working through mind & society
Note 3: Knowledge, capacity & understanding
Note 3: Freedom, what to lean on & who to believe
Note 3: Overwhelm and resignation
Note 3: Life’s never been simpler…
Note 4: Technology as a partial reality
Note 4: How important is real life?
Note 4: Social starting points for modern ways

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Social starting points for modern ways

Everything we’re doing by way of modern technology has probably already been done another way. Technology, essentially, having picked up our time-worn social functions to execute them by other means, with new form, pace and energy.

The organisation of society, the infrastructure of business and services, the communication that builds and sustains relationships – all that must be almost timeless? Sharing our dreams and the realities of our lives; making plans or securing the logistics of everyday living; interacting with the provisions of state or private enterprise are the essence of life, perhaps.

It’s simply that, now, our lives are mediated by this new and ambitious tool with a strong inclination to take over. Tech wants to predict our words, our desires, our connections – to map our lives and know us better than we know ourselves. And maybe that’s helpful. Maybe it’s relieving us of tiresome burdens and enabling us to live those lives more fully than has ever previously been possible.

But it’s funny to think we might forget the purpose, value or substance of all we’re doing – by not actually thinking all these things through, might we become careless and unaware of the original social function of our activities? (Notes One)

What I find myself wondering sometimes, is whether we’re making those essential foundations stronger or weaker. Are we spreading ourselves thin and tending toward ever more transactional encounters? Are we causing strain, or acting to shore up our collective footing? Are we investing ourselves in reliable systems and relationships that will last and serve us all well long-term?

Frequently, it seems we might be taking things for granted – communicating less well, less thoroughly, less intentionally; more caught up in our own side of the story than the challenge of empathy and mutual understanding. That, by not quite seeing the full picture of what all our actions mean or create, we might, in reality, be storing up a lot of problems for ourselves.

Technology makes things seem so “easy” that it’s perhaps forgivable we end up thinking it’s all, in fact, easy (Notes Two). Life has become so user-friendly, so convenient, with all its inevitable intricacy hidden away behind a simple, colourful screen. “Others” take care of the details on our behalf; freeing us up to juggle as many balls as we care to imagine.

Beneath it all, though, the substance of life – the understanding and truth behind all our relationships – surely still needs to be there? Hasn’t that always been the most essential thing? All of the ties between us, things we’re engaged with, and values we’re bringing to bear through every single choice we’re making (Notes Three).

Isn’t technology, as much as life itself, simply these webs of meaning woven around our lives? This sense in which all our understanding, intention and decisions are now mapped out, simplified, analysed and rearranged (often, without our knowing). How much, then, do we truly understand the significance and value of all we’re effectively handing over to that way of being?

Notes and References:

Note 1: Tools
Note 1: Cutting corners
Note 1: “Response Ability” by Frank Fisher
Note 2: The potential of technology
Note 2: Technology & the lack of constraint
Note 2: How important is real life?
Note 3: Does anything exist in isolation?
Note 3: Invisible ties
Note 3: What we bring to life

Ways to share this:

Technology as a partial reality

At times it can seem that technology’s all there is: that it’s reshaping our personal and collective lives to such a great extent, winding its tendrils through every aspect of our existence, that we can no longer quite imagine life without it. And, given how much it’s effectively chipping away at real-world interactions and infrastructure, it could even be that we don’t quite have the ability to fully function without it anymore.

It’s fascinating, really, that we’ve developed a tool with an inclination to become our master – an almost intrinsic tendency to surpass or render us dependent on its existence. This externalisation of human functions, resources and understanding that conceivably risks us losing our own innate capacities through its use.

Because, essentially, it’s the sum total of human knowledge: the culmination of our ability to understand and encode that understanding into a system; the ways in which we’re handing over society, our lives and the fruits of civilisation to that external storehouse. It’s “where society had got to” codified, built, and filled with human existence, then taking on this life of its own (Notes One).

Presumably you can put “anything” into such a system and, that system having certain parameters, it would churn away, elaborate, and evolve into something different. It’s simply this logical outworking of inputs and outputs. But if what we’re putting “in” is human life and society, what does that mean? Did we fully understand the value, significance or delicacy of all we’ve been so willingly placing at the altar of technology?

It’s fairly easy to catastrophise about the risks of this, and perhaps equally easy to dismiss such reservations as futile. Arguably, it’s a wave we just have to ride and hopefully learn to master.

With any form of technological progress, that seems the situation: “we” have to engage and attempt to direct it, else “others” will and we’ll lose our place in the battle. Given modern technology’s tendency towards largescale systems of life-altering dominance, that’s conceivably a reality no-one can afford to ignore.

It’s incredible to think how societies developed over thousands of years then a switch was flipped and “all that” became this global system, this crystallisation of all we’d attained up to that moment. From then, everything began changing, compounding problems and reshaping the lives of pretty much everyone on the planet.

The differences it’s made are surely unfathomable? Ways we’ve been relating, communicating, organising ourselves. The scope of all we’re engaged in: directly impacting other lives where, previously, little interaction was possible. Global patterns, industries and traditions have been disrupted in subtle or spectacular ways which cannot be rolled back.

But, within all that, the realities of human life must be the same as ever? While virtual life might seem more real – more overwhelming, compelling or present – than everyday life, the substance of our existence is essentially unchanged: relationships with others and with nature; the lives we’re leading and impacts we’re having; the values we bring to life through all these choices.

Notes and References:

Note 1: How important is real life?
Note 1: Value in visible impacts
Note 1: The potential of technology
Note 1: Patience with the pace of change
Note 1: Information as a thing, endlessly growing
Note 1: “Response Ability” by Frank Fisher
Note 1: Trust in technology?
Note 1: Cutting corners
Note 1: Tools

Running, perhaps, in parallel to all this, there’s The difference humanity makes or Problems & the thought that created them.

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Information as a thing, endlessly growing

At this point in time, the volume of information being churned out in the world is presumably staggering? On top of “what already exists” in terms of facts, ideas, stories and perspectives – the ready availability of all that’s been saved from humanity’s past – the amount being added to that each year, day or moment might be quite interesting to know.

As opposed to the limited scope of libraries or bookshops even a hundred years ago, the sense of what we now have at our fingertips is amazing to contemplate. Surely humans have, on the whole, never been so well-informed? We’ve never been able to answer questions so quickly or indulge our interests this readily.

It’s something fought long and hard for: quests for understanding and exploration, then for the freedom to interpret the outcomes for ourselves, stand as this pinnacle of human endeavour in many respects. In various ways, people literally sacrificed their lives in the pursuit of knowledge. Understanding of the world around us wasn’t something simply placed in human hands (Notes One).

But then, it just keeps growing. Compared with the volume of information that exists for each year of the more distant past, we’re adding so much more for recent years. Every day so many people add to the mass of “information” existing in the world, which we’re all then having to wade through, navigate and, most often, tune out in order to operate sensibly.

Are our personal thoughts, feelings and experiences “now” that much more valuable than information we hold on life in ancient times? What value are we adding to the conversation of humanity through all of the contributions we’re now making? It’s surely disproportionate, the volume and significance of what we can know of the past in comparison to the present.

Of course, that’s not entirely fair, as much of what I’m talking about is personal and social communications pushed into the public sphere. It’s so much easier now to express our views and we’re also actively being encouraged to share them this way, to weigh in on topics and events as part of the global conversation technology’s facilitating.

It’s just that “all this” must risk drowning out the past? Compared with the nature of present-day interests and revelations, the past might seem a dry, dreary, alien place we struggle to relate to. Does the tone of modern content and its historical reinterpretations risk overwhelming the subtle voices of the past with their powerful messages and convictions?

Not just the past, either – anything important yet understated. In a world where everyone’s demanding attention through images, shock-value, novelty, strategy or persistence, what if the truth is being spoken quietly? (Notes Two)

What if we’re churning out more and more emotive content, filling everyone’s hearts and minds to capacity, desensitising humanity to the value of information and the sense of what matters? And what if, behind the blaring horn of all these “because we can” contributions, we’re actually drowning out messages we really should be heeding?

Notes and References:

Note 1: Ideas that tie things together
Note 1: Freedom, what to lean on & who to believe
Note 1: Meaning within it all
Note 1: Writings on Education
Note 1: Caught in these thoughts
Note 2: Desensitised to all we’re told?
Note 2: Will novelty every wear off?
Note 2: Value in being informed
Note 2: How important is real life?
Note 2: Do we know what we’re doing?

Ways to share this: