We have entered a very interesting period in our evolutionary development. We have literally gone in forty years from too much information to deal to an overwhelming deluge of information. How did this happen.
An Interconnected world Enhanced by the Internet
Some have been born into the period of the internet. They don’t a world without it. For them, it’s a given.
For many others they have grown into this new world and are cringing as they know intuitively that they are dealing with an amount of information they have never seen before.
This isn’t a pile of information that comes from our town, province or country. It comes from everywhere around the world and to a degree beyond the world. This has happened in forty years more or less.
What Does this Mean
When one asks what this means at its simplest it means we’re swamped and drowning. Humans have evolved over centuries and since the Renaissance the amount of information and the knowledge we obtain from it might have expanding say exponentially. We’ve been to cope and development new technologies as our information resources have expanded.
Yet in the last forty years, our information resources have not just expanded they are coming at us from multiple sources enhancing the problem of dealing with it all.
If you can’t deal with it, you can’t take a great deal of advantage from knowing so much. It can be interesting. However, confusion can quickly set in. In a nutshell, we’re juggling too much.
Not long ago, we bought our local news paper (maybe), watched TV news, subscribed to magazines, watched TV, bought books, listened to radio etc etc.
Now, we do all of that and in addition we are generally all connected to the internet through more than one source. Our computer might get connected, our iPad, TV, smartphone which goes with us everywhere and on it goes. However, these are just the tools that enable software apps to deliver all the info we previously from a few sources but now receive which can include such things as email, text, Twitter, Facebook or all our forms of social media, the ability to search out answers to a question potentially from around the globe, news reels, news letters, groups and on and on and on it goes.
The volume of media we receive now has turned us from readers to skimmers. We quickly look at a document and scan as opposed to taking time and reading it end to end. When we read, we enjoyed what we were reading and comprehended far more. Skimming can provide a very cursory picture and there’s a danger that. If what we’re reading is substantive yet we glance at it we may miss important material telling us what we need to do or enhancing the understanding of a topic.
We simply have to look at the volume of email we get daily and quickly realize we cannot provide the time necessary to de0al with our inbox. We deploy tools to cut down on the material and either forget about it or don’t see something important at all.
Twitter provides a wealth of information as does Youtube. As we work through the mounds of information, how up to date are we really with the important news of the day. Filtering becomes the operative word but so does chaos, out of control, not knowing what’s going etc etc.
Consider Facebook an addiction prone trap for the lonely. Here vast sums of information hit us and if we get caught up in it we likely are just reading a pile of opinions. People have gotten depressed using Facebook as the people you interact with are not true friends and you end comparing yourself to a mirage. Social Comparison theory is real and if you’re comparing yourself to people that are painting themselves as God and you believe it you will inevitably get depressed.
Not only do we have a problem with the volume of information available but to its reliability. Depression can lead to serious consequences such as withdrawal, giving up and even committing suicide.
Multi-Tasking as a Solution Does’t Hold Water
Success in life often results from our ability to focus and pay attention to situations. This idea of multi-tasking or doing three or so activities at once is destined to fail. We are destined to fail. Our brains aren’t built to operate this way.
In the whiled, to survive we had to pay attention to and focus on our immediate endeavour and that often involved getting food to live on. If tens of thousands of years ago we multi-tasked we would have ensured the game we were after to feed ourselves and the family would have been feeding on us. We generally are more successful if we’ve defined our goal, focus on the outcome and attend to what is necessary to bring that about.
In the 80s as companies attempted to consolidate work or that is assign more and more to fewer and fewer, multi-tasking or the concept became in vogue. This would frequently lead to burn out, a nervous breakdown or being fired or just quitting. This was neither the route to success nor happiness.
Focus, Attention and Intendedness
The way to deal with the volume of information coming at us is to follow these three rules of thinking:
These aspects of thinking are interrelated. If we need to do something or learn something we cannot begin to think we can deal with all aspects of everything that is coming our way. We need to know what it is that we have to accomplish and basically using a filter we need to focus on the relevant material and simply ignore that which isn’t.
Secondly, we need attend to the situation by paying full attention. It is necessary to focus on the important and then pay full attention to that which we have determined is important.
Thirdly, we need to apply intendedness to the situation. This basically implies that we have determined what’s important and and use intendedness to do exactly that. All of this involves filters in which we purposely ignore the non-important to attain our goal/s. Working against this is the massive volume of information coming at us. This is a way of filtering out all that which isn’t important to the goal. By doing this we remove that which isn’t important to the task at hand.
Intendedness allows for the prioritization of goals. Our brains are not capable of absorbing all the material coming at us. If we like news to keep up, we focus say on a segment of news daily. If we have a goal to be a better investor, there needs to be a technique to figure out what is important to do this rather than looking at everything under the sun. If we don’t, the opposite will be accomplished and rather than being a better investor we’ll end up burned out.
The Information Revolution Really is a Revolution
The Information revolution which started with computers, then interconnected computers and now devices enabled by the internet, is a revolution without question. The old adage “Knowledge is Power” is true but bails of information not formed into knowledge is not power. It creates chaos within us. Today, we are overwhelmed.
Utilizing various techniques including the ones described above allows us to take the information and form it into knowledge. However, this means grappling with the deluge of information and filtering out that which is unimportant to our goals. Avoiding social media, chats and getting rid if unnecessary email is a start. Utilizing this wealth of information to tailor it to our needs can put us back in control. Through intentional design we can meld the information to something very useful to our lives and get rid of this overwhelmed feeling and the anxiety that goes with it. At this point, we can say ”knowledge is power“.