Friday, August 10, 2012

Ignorance, Content, & the Information Age

Our buddy Lucien has a post over at USNIBlog to get your puzzler puzzl'n.

This quote brought something out of my nogg'n.
It is a burden of our own creation in sifting through all the information available. At once we have created this amazing ability to tap into the ‘collective intelligence’ of those online towards improving the decision making process. The internet for all intents an purposes is not new (nor old), the shine and glint of it has worn off–it is not the next best thing, it is a ‘thing’ and so we must set about towards creating routine in its use.
I am reading a 1907 printing of James Joseph Walsh's The Thirteenth, Greatest of Centuries. In it, he outlines Medieval scientist Roger Bacon's thoughts on the nature of ignorance;
Roger Bacon summing up for Pope Clement the body of doctrine that he was teaching at the University of Oxford in the Thirteenth Century, starts out with the principle that there are four grounds of human ignorance. "These are first, trust in inadequate authority; second, the force of custom which leads men to accept too unquestioningly what has been accepted before their time; third, the placing of confidence in the opinion of the inexperienced, and fourth, the hiding of one's own ignorance with the parade of a superficial wisdom."
As Lucien points out - the internet is now an established part of the information ecosystem. In some cases it just replicates or taps in to existing information nodes; in other ways it creates new methods and access points. through its ease of access and speed, it does tighten the information cycle and velocity. What it isn't though is a cure for ignorance. It demands even more of the information consumer to be responsible for what they fill their minds with - and what they do with it.

A side-note on Bacon. When I put our earlier "Medieval scientist" - I am sure there was a snort, eye-roll, and perhaps a giggle there. Visions of some mud covered primitive trying to turn lead in to gold while burning a witch - or some other Hollywierd idea of the Medieval mind - perhaps came up first. Well - Bacon did pretty good for a guy in the 1200s. When pondering what the future holds for the then "new" explosives - did he think simply about blowing things up? No.

When did Lenoir invent the internal combustion engine again? Mmmm .... a bit over half a millennium earlier;
"Art can construct instruments of navigation such that the largest vessels governed by a single man will traverse rivers and seas more rapidly than if they were filled with oarsmen. One may also make carriages which without the aid of any animal will run with remarkable swiftness."

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