“It is a man’s own mind, not his enemy or foe, that lures him to evil ways.”
Quantity vs. Quality of Information
In the 16th century, scientists such as Conrad Gesner expressed concerns that the information overload from mass production of books might negatively affect the human mind after the invention of the printing press. Back then, lay people were not accustomed to the availability of scientific and occult knowledge. Such warnings have been made for centuries, and likely will be made for centuries to come as we accumulate even more complex networks of information. However, I see that the issue of the quality of information we consume is even more important now than the issue of quantity. Did we drop the standards for the quality of information we consume too low? Is there a correlation between the quantity and quality of information?
During the last decade, we’ve become strangely accustomed to information overload. People are complaining less about it now than before. Many people actually like to have access to more information now than before. According to the 2016 PEW Research Center survey, most Americans do not feel that information overload is a problem for them. Only 20% say they feel overloaded by information, which is less than the 27% a decade ago. 77% say they like having so much information at their fingertips, and 67% say that having more information at their disposals actually helps to simplify their lives.
Daniel Levitin, McGill University psychology professor and author of The Organized Mind: Thinking Straight in the Age of Information Overload, says in his book: “In 1976, there were 9,000 products in the average grocery store, and now it’s ballooned to 40,000 products. And yet most of us can get almost all our shopping done in just 150 items, so you’re having to ignore tens of thousands of times every time you go shopping.” The speed at which the quantity of generated information has increased in perfectly summarized in this quote: “I’ve read estimates there were 30 exabytes of information 10 years ago and today, there’s 300 exabytes of information.”
Information We Consume Turns into Our Life Experiences
With a dramatic increase in quantity of information, the question of quality becomes event more important. Does the quality of information drop on average with a sharp increase in its quantity? If yes, it must have an effect on the quality of our lives. Think about it for a moment. Everything we perceive during the day is processed by our brains. What we put into our mind, stays there and cannot be easily removed. Sooner or later, what we put into our mind directly affects our moods, our words, and our actions.
This simple analysis suggests that a mental diet is at least as important as a physical diet. We don’t eat everything that we can. Then, why don’t we watch in the same way what we consume with our minds? Why do we often allow ourselves to read, watch, or listen to information without differentiation? Increasing the quantity of information without simultaneously developing the faculty of discernment must inevitably lead to lower information quality. Continue reading How to Clean Up Your Mental Diet