Information begets information

When I began grad school a few years back, I had to adjust to the culture of paper writing. Being a Kinisiology major for my undergrad work, I was more accustomed to the “learn by doing” method of education. I can count on one hand the number of research papers I had to write.

But, when I got into a more theologically based education, not only did the writing load increase, I was also struck by the amount of information I had to parse through to understand the prevailing opinions on certain subjects or ideas.

In one class I tackled the story of Nadab and Abaiu out of Leviticus chapter 10. So, I went to find the best source of information regarding this seldom studied book of the bible. I was led to not one book, but three seperate books by a guy named Jacob Milgrom.
Book one (chapters 1-16) was 1163 pages.

Book two (chapters 17-22) was 625 pages.

Book three (chapters 23-27) was 819 pages.

That is 2607 pages of Levitical goodness about a 27 chapter book in my bible that is about 20 pages long.

As Liz Lemmon would say: “What the what”?

Needless to say, I was overwhelmed from the beginning. Even seasoned scholars with nothing else to do with their time would struggle through that much information and make sense of it. I tried to incorperate as much as I could into my paper and I ended up making a mediocre grade. If I recall, the professors’s comments revolved around the idea of keeping things simple and focusing on my thesis.

I didn’t understand what to do with all of the other information. What made that info less true than what I had included in my paper?

And, that is the problem we face with technology and the internet.

You see, there is more information available now than ever. And if what I read is correct, by the time you read this blog, the information you have available to you will probably have doubled. You can read about it here: http://www.cawood.com/blog/information-doubling

You see, there is an estimation that because of the world we live in – the internet, and the mass media- information will double every day beginning late this year. Research shows the amount of information available doubled between the birth of Christ and Leonardo DaVinci.

That’s around 1400 years. And, if the theory holds, information available will have doubled by tomorrow.

If this is true, I have a couple of questions to consider on the amount of info available:

1. How much can the human mind actually retain and use effectively?

2. At what point does “information overload” set in and turn against us?

3. How do we distinguish what is real and total crap?

Over the next few weeks I will explore these questions based upon the idea of information doubling.

How about you? Have you experienced an information overload from the internet? How do you deal with the overload?

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2 thoughts on “Information begets information

  1. I am so enjoying following the three of you. I don’t follow a lot of blogs. “Too much Information”, but what you are exploring is so relevant for today’s world, even to an “old” lady. I think that as we get older its a matter of “What do I need to know”, or at least in my case it is. Just tell me what I need. I subscribe to my own theory that all i need to know about salvation and how to live a Christian life is in the red letters. The older i get the more I am convinced that this is correct. Information is wonderful and interesting but it seems to me that splits in any system come from the “it doesn’t really matter to my salvation” issues. Of course it is hard for me to see how you can misunderstand some simple statements but we do that anyway.

    I do the driving in our family. When going somewhere we have not been before since we do not have a GPS (horrors!) I rely on an almost antiquated system of printing out “Mapquest”. My mate holds the paper. He is to give me directions. He tends to read me the whole page. I cannot find my way with the whole story. I need one step at a time. Just one at a time. When i have finished that step, give me the next one. Maybe we need to go back to telling the good news that way. Just one step at a time. All that information is good to know, but I don’t need the whole pie. Just one piece at a time. When I have digested that one piece, then please feed me another.

    thats my take on information overload. I look forward to more of this journey. Thanks to all three of you.

    • I agree, Beverly. When I talk to people of my generation they are trying to walk the tightrope of being “knowledgeable” but avoid being overwhelmed. We want to be people who have grasp of what is going on in our world – the prevailing opinions and thoughts surrounding our culture as well as what battles for the hearts and minds of those seeking God. Yet, when we spend all day digesting information – no matter what form the information takes – we hit a point of critical mass (I’m not sure where that is) and we cease our ability to make sense of any of it.

      Thats why I appreciate your sharing on this subject. I need new ideas on how to manage the deluge of information and ideas from someone who has been there. Thanks for reading and supporting us on this little project.

      Chris

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