Thursday, September 1, 2011

Information and Ideas

According to a USC study, the digital age began in 2002. In that year digital materials surpassed analog materials. Now, almost all of our recorded knowledge is in digital form. That doesn’t mean it’s easy to discover or use. See, e.g., What Students Don’t Know” (Inside Higher Ed).

Moreover, information does not necessarily generate ideas. From “The Elusive Big Idea” (The Times):
In the past, we collected information not simply to know things. That was only the beginning. We also collected information to convert it into something larger than facts and ultimately more useful — into ideas that made sense of the information. We sought not just to apprehend the world but to truly comprehend it, which is the primary function of ideas. Great ideas explain the world and one another to us. ...
But if information was once grist for ideas, over the last decade it has become competition for them. We are like the farmer who has too much wheat to make flour. We are inundated with so much information that we wouldn’t have time to process it even if we wanted to, and most of us don’t want to.
(The image above is a Google Doodle from last week that honored the birthday of Jorge Luis Borges, whose writing is full of information, ideas, and imagination.)