Knowledge Continuum

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An experiment to spark conversations

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Informational Hazard - Thinking Before Consuming

Information is probably the single most addictive substance, even more so than heroin in it can give you the kick even before you have consumed it, let alone waiting for the system to digest it. And what is more interesting is, the quality and the content(in chemist-speak, the composition, and the dosage) that is required to stimulate an individual varies for each individual. For some, the effect kicks in at “keeping up with Kardashians”; for some, when reading editorials in the economist or the new yorker; and for some, reading self-help claptrap disguised as psychology and science. Whichever end of the spectrum you are in there is not much difference in the effect it has on you – all it does is, it consumes your senses.

The problem is no one puts up a disclaimer about whether or not it is fit for you to consume. You have to figure it out yourself. And what is all the more disconcerting is the fact that in doing so none of us are aware of the toll it has taken on us. Consider a simple case of skimming through a newspaper(or an online news app if you are tech-savvy), how much do you retain at the end of it? So, at what point is the trade war between the US and China right now? Oh, and what is happening in the US open? Who is the current world champion in blitz-chess? What happened to the bridge that was going to be built in the who-cares where region? And then top it with some political and investment news, you have successfully deceived yourself into believing that you have hoarded all the information you could and retained nothing. I emphasize nothing!

If you were to explain the article to someone say a couple days later, I bet all you could recall is the headline. This is the plight of pretty much everyone right now. The toll taken on our attention span due to this continuous influx of information outweighs most of the benefits of consuming it. You travel up the ladder in wealth and status this becomes far graver – you can see people competing for information, meaning, one might not like politics at all but they are now forced to hold an opinion on the president and the current affairs just to be able to contribute to verbal diarrhea to be a part of the social group and to keep up the ostensible progress.

Now consider this, you read a New York Times piece on Venezuela’s economic collapse that states socialist policies as the primary reason, the high it can give you is indescribable, you suddenly are anti-“this” and pro-“something else”. If someone asked you your political views, you are now nothing more than a parrot regurgitating a New York Times piece as a reason for your anti-socialism stance. Okay, I am sorry I understand that citing only one article can show one in a bad light, so maybe a bunch of them?

It is precisely because of this indolent nature of our brain that I ask you to be careful. At least in the case of occupational hazards, you are aware of the downsides, and when you do sign up you do it wittingly. But in the case of Informational Hazards, neither are we aware of the downsides nor did we sign up for it knowingly.