Drowning in Information, Starving for Knowledge

5 Nov 2023

The statement that highlights the paradox of our modern age. We live in a world where information is abundant and easily accessible, yet we often struggle to make sense of it all. The sheer volume of data can be overwhelming, and it can be difficult to separate the signal from the noise.
The phrase “We are drowning in information but starved for knowledge” was first coined by John Naisbitt in his 1982 book “Megatrends.” 
Naisbitt was referring to the explosion of information that was occurring at the time, and he noted that despite this abundance of data, people were not necessarily becoming more knowledgeable. In fact, he argued that people were becoming more confused and less informed.
Fast forward to today, and Naisbitt’s observation is even more relevant. We now live in an age where information is ubiquitous. We have access to vast amounts of data on virtually any topic imaginable. But despite this abundance of information, we often struggle to make sense of it all. We are bombarded with news stories, social media posts, emails, and other forms of communication on a daily basis. It can be difficult to keep up with everything, let alone understand it all.
The American poet Henry David Thoreau, upon observing the excruciatingly hard work of laying telegraph lines near his home, famously lamented:

“We are in great haste to build telegraph lines from Maine to Texas, but do we have anything important enough to communicate to justify this kind of cost and effort?
We are eager to tunnel under the Atlantic Ocean to bring the old world to the new, but the first news that will arrive at the American ears will probably be that Princess Adelaide has the whooping cough!”

He probably would have made the same comment about the Internet, and it would be true.

Information is costly to produce, especially quality information, but cheap to disseminate once the infrastructure has been built. Modern communication networks reduced the cost of dissemination drastically, but producing quality information remains costly. As a result, the incentive is to emphasize cheap dissemination rather than expensive production, by producing large quantities of low-quality information, but disseminate it widely. This is the explanation for the celebrity culture where some people succeed on the basis of name recognition alone, without any particular accomplishment; yet those with extraordinary accomplishments often remain obscure, poor, and unappreciated.

French poet Paul Valery wrote in 1895:

“Western cultures worship information as if it were an omnipotent beast and place no limits on what they seek to know.”

He further said,

"The Chinese by contrast do not wish to know too much, because they understand that knowledge must not increase endlessly.
If it continues to expand, it causes endless change, and creates a need to adjust and abandon age-old traditions and wisdom.
You are better off ignorant than stricken with the European disease of constant invention and change, and the debauchery of endless confusion from new ideas.” 

We are constantly bombarded with information from all sides, but much of it is superficial and ephemeral. We may be able to access facts and data easily, but it takes time and effort to process and synthesize this information into meaningful knowledge.
One of the challenges of the information age is that it is difficult to distinguish between credible and unreliable sources. We are also susceptible to confirmation bias, which is the tendency to seek out and interpret information in a way that confirms our existing beliefs. This can lead to us becoming trapped in echo chambers, where we are only exposed to information that supports our views.
Another challenge is that the knowledge we need to solve complex problems is often fragmented and dispersed. This can make it difficult to find the information we need and to see the connections between different pieces of information.
In order to overcome these challenges and to turn information into knowledge, we need to be critical thinkers. We need to be able to evaluate the credibility of sources, to identify our own biases, and to synthesize information from different sources to form our own conclusions. We also need to be able to communicate our knowledge effectively to others.
Here are some specific tips for turning information into knowledge:

  • Be critical of the information you consume.

Don't just accept everything you read or hear at face value. Ask yourself who created the information, what their motivation is, and whether they are a credible source.

  • Identify your own biases.

We all have biases, but it's important to be aware of them so that we can avoid letting them cloud our judgment.

  • Seek out multiple perspectives.

Don't just rely on one source of information. Try to find different perspectives on the issue so that you can get a more complete picture.

  • Synthesize the information.

Once you have gathered information from different sources, take some time to think about how it all fits together. What are the key points? What are the different perspectives? What are the implications?

  • Communicate your knowledge to others.

One of the best ways to learn is by teaching. Try to explain your knowledge to others in a clear and concise way. This will help you to solidify your own understanding and to identify any gaps in your knowledge.
The repercussions of this information overload are far greater for kids when they consume too much uncensored information from multiple sources continuously.
E. O. Wilson in Consilience: The Unity of Knowledge (1998) said

"We are drowning in information, while starving for wisdom.
The world henceforth will be run by synthesizers, people able to put together the right information at the right time, think critically about it, and make important choices wisely."

These words never felt truer.
Kids are particularly vulnerable to information overload because their brains are still developing. They are also more likely to be exposed to a wide range of information, both good and bad, through the internet and social media.
Parents can help to protect their kids from the negative effects of information overload by:

  • Setting limits on screen time
  • Monitoring their kids' online activity
  • Talking to them about the importance of evaluating information critically
  • Teaching them how to deal with stress and anxiety in a healthy way.
  • Providing them with opportunities to engage in activities that do not involve screens, such as physical activity, sports, and creative hobbies.

It is also important to create a supportive home environment where kids feel comfortable talking to their parents about their concerns.
Connect with me elsewhere!
BULB | Publish0x | Twitter | Read.Cash
Information Paradox : Drowning in Information, Starving for Knowledge - IEEE Technology and Society

Write & Read to Earn with BULB

Learn More

Enjoy this blog? Subscribe to Ceema


No comments yet.
Most relevant comments are displayed, so some may have been filtered out.