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Information Overload – redux

 

One thing about information – there’s a lot of it out there, but the good news is, most of it, you will never need.

Take the following pieces of conflicting  ‘information’ for instance:

1) As of Oct 31 20111 the world population reached 7 billion people (United Nation info) – though Mr Heilig, in charge of population estimates for the U.N. said no-one knew for sure what the population was.

2) “Knowledge is doubling every ten years”. (Eric Johnson, president of the US Chamber of Commerce).

3) With the advent of the Web, knowledge was doubling approximately every 18 months, according to the American Society of Training and Documentation.

4) “IBM predicts that in the next couple of years information will double every 11 hours”. (Time Magazine)

5) “…as shown in patents and academic publication, knowledge doubles at different rates for different sectors, ranging from 2 years for nanotechnology to 21 years for other sectors.”(newsfan.com).

6) It is a well-known fact that the speed of light is an absolute speed (Einstein) nothing can go faster. Except now at the Bern L.H. Collider they have (possibly) found particles that cannot go slower than the speed of light.

In other words a lot of conflicting facts those pass as information

So take a deep breath, relax, and let’s start again.

Information comes in three forms: wisdom, knowledge and all then – the rest.

Wisdom is the most important. Wisdom is the accumulated ‘stuff’ that allows you to transcend the mundane, and make your life something significant. Wisdom is not a fact or a statement but it is, unfortunately, indefinable, and you only can recognize it from hindsight. It also takes most of a lifetime to accumulate and become useful. But it is the most important information we can learn.

Knowledge is like a collection of very useful tools. Tools that allow you to function at high levels in your family, community, at work and in society. And like all tools, some are basic some are complex. Some allow you to remember how to drive a car, some allow you to function as CEO of your company.

The rest of the ‘stuff’ out there is information. It’s sometimes interesting, sometimes baffling and sometimes useless, but none of it is necessary for you to get on with your life. Whether the population is or isn’t 7 billion exactly does not affect you. How much information is or isn’t doubling has no impact on your life. And for most of us the speed of light issue, is not an issue.

Four key facts to remember about information

1) There is actually no NEW information. We discover it and give it a name and say it’s more information, but it was always there. When we discover a star in the sky – it was there before we discovered it. We discover a ‘new’ mineral, species, microorganism, nuclear particle – isn’t new – it was always there, but it now has a name and is on somebody’s blog.

2) If it is not knowledge that is of direct use to your livelihood, or how you function in your family or community, you have no need to fret about it. Think of it all as a branch of the Trivial Pursuit game.

3) When you do come across information that you feel is important to you – use it like you would use a tool. Take it and apply it to where you need it, and then put it away. We don’t carry tools we don’t need around with us.

4) These days every piece of gossip, rumor, possible rumor, even what someone said about a rumor that was gossip – is called information. And it is put in a newspaper or a magazine or on a blog or micro-blog and treated as ‘information’. Remember its gossip and rumor – you can ignore it, as if it never happened.

Think of this whole information overload situation this way – you don’t carry Home Hardware’s entire inventory around with you, just in case you may need one their tools, one day. You take what you need when you need it, and then put it back.

It is the same with information. There is no ‘overload’ – though there is definitely too much information, but remember you and I, we, will only ever need a fraction of it. When you come across a situation where you need more information, that is, more knowledge, go find that information, and when you’re done, put it away.

Information can be trivial, interesting or useless, and because of the nature of humanity and how we like to talk about what this person or that person said about this or that incident or fact, we can produce an almost infinite amount of ‘information’. But just as we don’t need to carry all the tools from the Big Box Hardware Store everywhere, we do not need to know every remark everybody made about every incident in the world. We have no need, ever of ‘all’ the information out there.

We do need knowledge to get through the day, how to love our families and friends, how to make some kind of a living, and in there somewhere as we grow and learn, perhaps accumulate some wisdom. However the air speed velocity of an African Swallow, for instance, is not a fact we need worry about, nor how many web sites there are, or who won the World Series in 1976.

(P.S. the World Series? It was Cincinnati – and it was the first time a designated hitter was used in a world series – now, did you really need to know that?)

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One comment on “Information Overload – redux

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