Posted by: arieliondotcom | October 15, 2008

Lubricated Leapfrog and Info Overload

I found the Information Overload article in our readings this week troubling on many levels, none of which were the “anxiety”, etc. attendant upon the theorist’s assumpions. 

The first was the insistance on the use of the term “evolution” to explain the concept of ephemerization (the continuous process of increased efficiency with lessening resistance and control).

“Evolution” (a theory itself) opens a whole “can of worms” and infers an improvement without equal retrograde.  That is, what is supposed to be an “improvement” that “proves” the cases of the author for ephemerization, etc. have just as many problems if not moreso than the previous condition, which negates the idea of “evolution” at all.  If “evolution” were true (which I don’t believe it is) the last state of the evolved creature/state would be a substantive improvement over the previous state.  That is not true in any of the instances cited yet they are used to make the case anyway.

Also, nowhere in the papers is the issue of “quality over quantity” addressed, that I could tell.  Again, “different” is interpreted as “evolved” when it is not. Just different.

Another problem is the repeated leapfrogging from one assumption to another as if these arguments which are based on assumption are “obvious.”  For example: that email communication is considered de facto superior to verbal communication on the (big) assumption that the verbal communication had “obviously” been corrupted by humans in transmission; that geography no longer matters (not true…signals weaken over distance, distance counts and costs extra in shipping, a fact ignored in the article), and so on. 

Most troubling of all, though, is the proposed “solution” of manipulation of human intelligence through artificial means and the statement that a more educated person is part of this solution.  To say that a more educated person is the solution to a problem and that a less educated person is not implies more value to the more educated person and implies that the less educated people are around the better.  This sounds dangerously like the identification of “inferior” (in the author’s opinion) human beings. The “suprahuman” solution sounds a lot like the “Superman” solution of Nietsche and others with an “ultimate solution” in the wings.  Combined with the value placed on “efficiency”, the negative comments about human communication “corrupting” and “distorting” things, I found this chilling.

Rather than the supposed improvements proposed by the author, I would suggest that the only thing that technology has increased is the number of redunant opinions/information.  While I can agree that the amount of information and connections available these days is much larger than in previous times, and can agree that a great number at one time is overwhelming for any individual, that only means filtering takes place on a more local instead of global scale.  If you can only handle 5 opinions at a time in making a decision, once you have those 5 opinions, anything else is filtered out, whether the 6th opinion comes from the person next door or in TImbuktu.  The human mind is valuable because of the ability to reason, connect and emote and to function on a spiritual level.  More education does not necessarily mean a better ability to cope/solve problems.  That’s where we get the term “common sense” from.  A less educated person can learn just as much experientially and from connections as a well-degreed person. That’s the very point of Connectivism to me.  I don’t need to have the degree in physics to solve a problem.  I just need to know where to look because the solution is “out there” somewhere in my connections.  It may be in a connection with a scholar in Australia.  Or it may be in the connection with the chicken farmer next door who never wnet to school but understands fluid mechanics because he fixed the same water pump I’m trying to fix.  What matters is getting the information I need, through accessing connections and getting the issue at hand resolved.  That does not mean anything or anyone has “evolved”, just that the methods of connection have changed, though not necessarily improved.

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