Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Information arms race

      Have you ever spent the entire day multitasking only to  realize you have finished nothing? This is how I often feel after a day of research. Sometimes this research is specific to my choosing. Most of the time the issues researched randomly popped up in one of my social media feeds, or through my morning radio intake. After spending a day like that I feel like a worker bee who has collected parasites in place of nectar or pollen.

     The digital age has given us more access to information than ever before. I once thought this reality was universally good. Now I wonder if I am in the advanced stages of information overload. I am constantly second guessing, delaying decisions and left in doubt instead of having conviction within my conclusions.

      When I consider the paths information travels to reach my paradigm, they are intricate, invaluable and sometimes intimate. Social media, cable news, newspapers, emails from various groups, word of mouth from strangers, friends family and sensory organs. These are all platforms screaming for attention and support. I personally like to be supportive and well informed, however I am beginning to wonder If I need to draw a line.

      When does knowledge as power turn into knowledge as extra baggage? Currently we have thousands of causes and reasons to act, yet as a body politic our actions are few. I  wonder if I to collect information in place of engaging in activism. I would like to have more balance on this front. Are past, present and future activists currently in holding patterns, obtaining as much data as possible, until that day we all converge and force the change we want to see? I think the answer to that question is maybe at best. It actually seems to me that information overload is creating an impotent base for activism. "The problem with the world is that the intelligent people are full of doubts, while the stupid ones are full of confidence."*

     This puts me into a tough position. In no way am I advocating the end of sharing of information. I think the only beings who seriously want to dismiss the value of knowledge are afraid of the actual power within it. When I look at the division between ideologies and parties, I see an information arms race. The different camps seem to be locked into a competition to drudge up statistics and data that support their respective side. I see this surface in my friends when they continually argue the current topics with the same zeal and structure the pundits do across the spectrum. When this occurs I realize that the powers that be, might not be able to control what we think, but they are doing a good job of controlling what we think about. (If anyone knows the origin of that thought please inform me.)

     The issue I have with the information arms race we are engaged in, is we do not look to or create solutions. Instead we are endlessly searching for ways to one up the other side. I realize that the sharing of information also looks to grow a wider base of reader/listeners/viewers., but what will that wider base do with arguments that lack solutions? My answer to that question is they will continue to argue and never act.

     My answer to this phenomenon of information overload is this: We narrow our focus to what is significantly important to us. We concentrate on them one at a time. We do the work, be it research, critical thought or outreach until solutions are reached. Once a clear solution is decided upon, we need to determine if that solution is feasible. If it is feasible on a standalone basis, we need to act. Act first as individuals. Test that solution on an individual basis and then look to spread the word. If no feasible solution is in reach on an individual basis (or within our close in person social circles) we should move on to the next item of importance and repeat this process. Maybe the most important item on your list needs building blocks to be cast, and a foundation to be laid. If this is the case then baby steps. 

     If information has power, conclusions need to be formulated into solutions. This will take combining knowledge, creativity and work ethic. If we don't narrow our focus we will spend our days multitasking never without finishing a single task.

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