Thursday, November 10, 2005

The times we live in

Here's what I find most interesting about the times we live in. No, it's not the moral decline or scary political climate. History has seen far worse before. It's the information availability and its societal distribution. In other words, who has the info and who doesn't and why. Here's the weird part: anyone with internet access has access to a virtually unlimited supply of information. And yet, with this overwhelming supply comes an interesting reaction. Rather than absorbing as much of it as we can we tend to ignore it because take it for granted. I don't know how a T.V. works, but I know I could find out in less than a minute.

Exacerbating this issue is the fact that no one could conceivably learn even a fraction of what there is to know about so many fields of study. So we rely on experts to tell us what to think about any particular field. Our technology has grown so immense that we have no other choice. Food production, medicine, psychology, politics, religion, conservation, history, economics, etc, etc. Who could possibly know enough about all these fields to make an educated stand on them all? And yet almost everyone has a stand on them.

This is only possible by listening to the experts and determining which one of many conflicting views on a topic sounds best to us. So these experts are now given the power to shape society, because society cannot possibly study every issue enough to make informed decisions on their own. Information is being consolidated into smaller and smaller areas. Not because it's unavailable to the masses, but because they lack the education to unravel the sophisticated technological reality of these developing fields.

Our reliance on experts grows more and more as our technology grows. And so to does our hopelessness for keeping a consistent worldview because our opinions on so many subjects are being shaped by philosophical and political systems outside of our knowledge.

Information has always come through filters, whether it was the philosophical bent of the reporter, the unrecognized but powerful non-verbal form of its delivery; and of course the last filter being the recipient of that information. Every person has biases that give extra credence to some facts and dismiss others. But I think we are at an unprecedented level of information filtering because of our reliance on experts, and most people don't even acknowledge that it occurs. They are content to back whatever opinion they have on any matter with some authoritative expert's testimony. Everything from, "A new ice age is going to happen soon!" to "Free trade agreements will destroy our economy!" to "Religion is the cause of all war and hatred in the world!" Should one be so inclined they could spend the years of time it would take to become educated enough to actually fully examine these claims, but it's much easier to just recite the 'information' that sounds good to them and matches their philosophical disposition.

Besides having unprecedented access to unprecedented amounts of information, we also have unprecedented access to entertainment of all kinds. I'm no history expert, (note the nod to the last paragraph) but I can't think of a time where a society had so much of its recourses committed to entertaining themselves. I certainly can't complain too much… my livelihood is based on that fact. But you have to wonder what kind of an effect that has on people. We have instant access to almost anything on the internet. We have movies on DVD and cable, more free music than we could ever listen to, the ability to call and chat with anyone anywhere, amusement parks all over the place, malls for shopping everywhere, and the list could go on and on.

It's an interesting time when the vast majority of information available is ignored by a society that instead gears its energies towards placating their whims.

So how does one navigate the ocean of filtered information and limitless entertainment? It seems to me that there is no way to do it on your own. It seems to me that we need some sort of a navigator that is outside of it all. Someone who doesn’t filter information or seek to placate us. A transcendent being that can speak directly to us and guide us on a level that information and entertainment don't reach. Because on our own, we are left to be swept away by any current or wind that takes us.

2 Comments:

Anonymous Luke Burcell said...

"I'm no history expert, (note the nod to the last paragraph) but I can't think of a time where a society had so much of its recourses committed to entertaining themselves."

Hello Josh = )
If I'm not mistaken didn't Rome, while falling into decadence, commit nearly 2/3 of every year to games? Maybe we should be a bit more worried about where the West is headed.

9:07 AM  
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11:33 AM  

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