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Mind

Brave New World: Making Sense of Information Overload

The IntersectionBy Sheril KirshenbaumSeptember 12, 2007 12:32 PM
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It’s certainly no wonder lots of folks seem confused over the significance of climate change. I recently discussed media driven alarmism, but there’s an equally relevant modern pressure that has enormous implications on our individual and collective attention span.

At the touch of a laptop, iphone, or blackberry, we are exposed to a limitless sea of information without the proper time to process it all. We’ve developed into an extremely fast-paced society that has the tremendous capacity to quickly exchange ideas at rates never before experienced by our species. Welcome to the blogospherefor goodness sake… a wonderland where it’s so easy to get lost.

Just yesterday, we were told arctic sea ice cover is at a record low, Bush will withdraw troops from Iraq, and tigers were rediscovered in an Indian rainforest. We read that CO2 may boost big oil, a shooting star’s trail is slimmer than pencil lead, and why moray eels are even cooler than we realized. The news explained we ought to worry about starving Grey whales, but maybe not so much about a diet high in olive oil. We tried to interpret what Senator Larry Craig really meant about his ‘feet bumping‘ fiasco and watched with sympathy as Britney Spears ran through the motions of her now infamous VMA performance. And of course, all of that came after remembering 9-11.

Hope you caught that because it’s old by now and today’s a new day after all… Yes, it’s obvious why we’re so puzzled over how to separate what’s pressing from all the background noise. It makes me wonder if all the hullabaloo over increased incidence of ADD is in part actually due to our difficulty in adapting to the changing media environment. [Paging Randy Olson: Flock of Dodos anyone?]

Indeed, we live in exciting, pivotal, and troubling times. The speed at which we transmit information occurs faster than anything science fiction could have imagined only decades ago. So while I can’t offer the means to make sense of it all, I do suggest we continue thinking critically about our world and all we encounter in the evolving information matrix. But there is one thing I will assure you. Global warming is frighteningly real. Pay attention!

As for how to cope with the new information age happening in real time, my advice is to hold on tight. We’ve come a long way baby, and in 2007, the world is literally at our fingertips!

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