So I’ve finally obtained a smart phone of my own, complete with unlimited 4G access (I was due for an upgrade, so it was thankfully affordable). This gadget is a news junkie’s dream: I now have instantaneous access to all the events of the world at all times. I can look up anything and everything whenever a random thought or question comes into my mind. I have a constant stream of knowledge available wherever I go.
Of course, like most innovations, this one is a double-edged sword. It’s nice to have all this information literally in the palm of my hand. But will my often distracting obsession with data and news be made worse by this newfound capacity to expand on it? Sure, I don’t plan on playing any of the games that often distract many of my peers: all my apps are strictly functional (so far). But a distraction is a distraction…how intrusive will this remarkable device be?
I suppose this will offer a wonderful opportunity to test my willpower – or to learn by experience just how difficult it is for the human mind to adjust in this era of constant stimulus. I already know the feeling of data overload firsthand, as I’m sure most of us well-connected youth do. Have I just upped the ante here? I’ll see with time, but for now I’m thoroughly enjoying having so much to read and learn whenever I’m stuck waiting somewhere. For better or for worse, boredom is a thing of the past (though I’ve always carried reading material with me wherever I go, so keeping myself entertained has never been an issue; now I get to save on space).
Another profound thought struck me as I started reaping the benefits of my new toy: that in the palm of my hand, in this lightweight and sleek machine, lies access to almost the entire sum of human knowledge. Anything and everything I could ever want to know – from the mundane, to the profound, from the practical to the philosophical – was available to me almost instantaneously with a few strokes of my fingers. Not a single reportable event in the world can go unnoticed. No conceivable question could go unaddressed. All of that lies within something smaller than my hand, which I can take with me anywhere I wanted.
For most of our history, the majority of our species couldn’t even read or write, let alone have access to the world’s knowledge. We barely knew what went on beyond our little villages. Suddenly, a growing number of us are connected to this immaterial repository of human knowledge known as the internet, and now, if we so choose, we can delve into the near-totality of collected human knowledge.
As I mentioned before, there is certainly a catch as far as the social and psychological effects of all that data – the human mind was never meant to absorb so much information so regularly. We’ll probably come to adapt to it as we have to so many other developments, but it may be a difficult process nonetheless. Who knows? Whatever the caveats, we shouldn’t underestimate how marvelous it is to live in a time when knowledge is no longer (entirely) the domain of the rich and powerful. The accessibility and affordability of these things is getting better with time. Whatever the impact, it’s sure to be weighty.