Saturday, July 2, 2016

answers without questions

Perhaps the Danish director Nicholas Winding Refn is right in another of his endlessly self-referential observations:
“You can be more bold and abstract now, because the young are so smart. Older people complain about their attention span, but in fact kids just understand everything faster.”
This week 'futurist' Alvin Toffler, author of "Future Shock" and popularizer of the phrase "information overload," died at 87. Predating Toffler, according to Wikipedia, was Bertram
Gross, who wrote in 1964:
Information overload occurs when the amount of input to a system exceeds its processing capacity. Decision makers have fairly limited cognitive processing capacity. Consequently, when information overload occurs, it is likely that a reduction in decision quality will occur.
 I think Refn thinks he's right and I think he has a lot of company. It seems to explain everything to say that kids understand things faster. This scares the shit out of old farts like me who are still puttering along at a snail's pace and finding little success at gaining our breath.

But then I wonder if anyone really understands anything faster. I mean really wonder -- not, like some deviously venomous academic, that I want to undermine what may be a true fact ... i.e. they're fast and I'm slow.

And what I come up with is that the ones who understand everything faster are very good at coming up with conclusions but have not yet mastered the ability to ask questions. The Internet, in all its glories, specializes in answers and conclusions. Those conclusions rest largely on the agreement of others and as long as the agreement of others suffices to bring peace of mind, the Internet will work its wiles.

But once the questions begin to assert themselves, then the ephemeral nature of conclusions and understanding everything faster tends to collapse and what International Monetary Fund CEO Christine Lagarde recently dubbed the "new mediocrity" starts to kick in -- the same mediocrity that she fears will impede economic growth over the long haul.

The tsunami of understanding everything faster is no joke. It is so attractive. It drives governments. It defangs gun crontrol legislation. It defends the chasm between wealth and poverty. It produces goods that hold up for a little while and then collapse. Cat calls greet anyone one who suggests that asking questions is necessary to stable understanding.

Another mass shooting ... oh well.

And to suggest that those who ask questions are automatically exempt from being blowhard assholes is obviously another attempt to understand things faster.

1 comment:

  1. In spite of claims that broadcast media would unify folks, the exploding plethora of media outlets have, as Marshal Mcluhan prophesied, drawn us farther apart. For an old guy like myself, it's annoying to be confronted by things i know nothing about. And the whole thing seems entirely too loud for my taste. I shun further education and seek solace in history.