“I’m not dumb. I just have a command of thoroughly useless information.” – Bill Waterson
Sometimes I think we all feel like this. Thanks to the internet, we live in an age where all the information in the world is at our finger tips. Too much information, however can be a bad thing. How are we to filter out the important from the trivial? Not only is there a variety of topic we can choose to focus our attention on, but within those areas we find different point of views. When does information get in the way of obtaining true knowledge? More importantly, with all of the minutia of the world today, how does one define this true knowledge?
From an entertainment stand point alone, we are exposed to a seemingly infinite number of different knowledge bases. Be it the expansive universes created by comic book illustrators or the dramatic tales woven by the movie and playwrights of our generation. There are a multitude of entertainment experts in this world. You have the gamers, the music snobs, the literary types, the poets, the science-fiction nerds, the bikers, the nature enthusiasts, and so on and so on. The list is practically endless. Yet, somehow through all of this we are expected to filter out that which entertains us most and still find time to be a productive member of society. Save having the discipline of a Jedi, this seems to be quite the impossible task.
Then there is the important information that effects daily life. This is the stuff most commonly muddied by a variety of different points of view. As John F. Kennedy so aptly noted, “Too often we enjoy the comfort of opinion without the discomfort of thought.” We all seem to have an opinion about the important issues of the day (e.g. politics, religion, how to best install a light bulb, etc.), but often times are unwilling to analyze the validity of their existence in the face of contrary evidence. Can we be blamed? A simple search on any popular search site will give you thousands of sources with often times differing opinions on the matter of pretty much anything. Including whether or not access to limitless information is a good or bad thing. Is it any wonder there are so many apathetic individuals out there when trying to get a clear idea about the world is so difficult.
So how do we determine what is and isn’t important? Do we simply limit the information we receive? Unplugging our computers and disconnecting ourselves from the internet may seem like a good thing at first. However, attempting to compete in and understand a world where a large percentage of the population has access to this information may suggest otherwise. Instead, perhaps we should allow our values and personalities to determine what is valuable. In fact, this is probably how many of us currently operate. The key, however, is to always assess the true importance of what we absorb, and to make sure our priorities match what’s best for both our individual selves and the world at large.
Information is only as important as the reaction it causes.