Archive from October, 2012
Oct 30, 2012 - philosophy, Society, Technology    No Comments

Information Overload


“It is said that the mind of a young child is like a white canvas”

A child has no biases or pre-conceptions. It does not distinguish yet between what is good and what is bad or why it has come to take pass at this time in this place. Instead the mind simply absorbs the information like a sponge without adding to it or subtracting from it.

As the child develops this sensory information starts getting sorted into things which are on a very basic level pleasant or unpleasant. In the pleasant category falls the feeling of the warm sun shining on your face and the texture of the carpet in the living room. In the unpleasant category falls burning your hand on a hot plate or falling backwards.

Humans as well as other animals learn through experience and there is simply no substitute for it. We hear our parents speak about “learning from our mistakes” but for most things this is simply not possible. One can not just show a child a picture of another child burning his fingers and think that this will stop him/her from touching a hot plate.

But some things can be learned from those who have come before us. Books have since Gutenberg proliferated throughout society and acted as a common repository of knowledge gathered over the ages. One can only dream of the wealth of information which was destroyed when the great library of Alexandria, one of the seven wonders, burned to the ground.

But again we were limited. Limited to the amount of books, or knowledge, one might get his hands on. Libraries were created and filled with information on all kinds of topics but unless you were living in one of the great cities of the world you were out of luck as to the amount of specific knowledge you could get your hands on.  Furthermore should you forget a piece of information you would once again have to physically drag yourself down to the library and once again sift through volumes of books to find it. In other words it was in your interest to remember the information that you read.

Now we have the internet.

The internet puts the collected wisdom of the world at our fingertips. Nothing, whether it be metaphysics, medicine or philosophy is more than a couple of mouse clicks away. This is a great step forward for humanity and there is no question that it is changing us as a species even while I am writing this post.

It is quite possible that we are losing a piece of our humanity when we link ourselves up to this sphere of technology but surely it is worth it…..

I still go out for dinner with my friends and video chat will never ever replace the touch of your parents hand on your shoulder.

The question I am asking myself is if my mind has simply stopped retaining knowledge or if it is just getting better at sorting through it and choosing what is important and what is not?

On a daily basis I go through a minimum of:


50 e-mails

40 Social network updates

10 News letters

4 Newspapers

200 Twitters

4 academic papers


I forward them, share them, blog about them or sometimes just ponder them.

But at the end of that particular week, even though I know where in the digital sphere I can find them, I am sure I do not retain more than 5% of the information in them.

So where the mind of a young child is like a canvas and able to retain large amounts of RAW sensory data my mind is probably like a wall of graffiti where there is very little room for anything new.

Like wise men say, “One can not pour into a cup that is already full”

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