Information Overload

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We often lose the power of the moment, because we are so rarely in it. Yet the most meaningful and rewarding aspects of living require time, and presence.

The invention of the printing press in the middle of the 15th century gave rise to a period of
information proliferation which scholars of the time bemoaned for a variety of reasons.
They lamented that, as mass production increased, the quality of printed texts diminished, but they also expressed concern that the supply of new information was ‘distracting and difficult to manage’.

Does this sound a little like 15th century information overload?

Fast forward to the age of the internet, to a world where, thanks to rapid advances in computer technology, distracting and unmanageable information overload has become a blessed curse, and is now a way of life for most of us.

I feel a keen sense of metaphysical vertigo when I try to imagine the world in another fifty or even twenty five years as information and access to information continues to grow exponentially. This is not unlike the feeling I get when I gaze up at the sky on a cloudless night – a visceral sense of seductive and paralyzing wonder as I feebly attempt to measure the significance of my life against the profusion of possibilities inherent in an ever expanding universe. Looking out from my half lit 21st century cave, the milky way of information and social networking looks and feels similarly overwhelming.

The challenge for me, fortunate enough to have been born into this fascinating and frustrating time, is to learn to live in ways that are outwardly simple, but inwardly rich.

As I aspire to live more mindfully in a complex world driven increasingly by technology,
what I am learning from the age of information overload is that breadth of knowledge is not the same as depth of knowledge, and that being good at multitasking is not the same as being able to engage meaningfully with complexity.

Although I can be as inclined as the next curious person to enjoy falling down the virtual rabbit hole of the internet, I am also learning that setting priorities and simplifying my life helps a great deal when it comes to determining what constitutes personal, meaningful engagement.

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