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What information consumes is rather obvious: it consumes the attention of
its recipients. Hence a wealth of information creates a poverty of
attention, and a need to allocate that attention efficiently among the
overabundance of information sources that might consume it.
– Herbert Alexander Simon, economist, Nobel laureate (1916-2001)
Let’s try to put the ducks in order here. We have too much information available to us constantly. The Information Highway became the Information Superhighway, which became an information stampede. Trying to stand firm in the face of any stampede brings challenges and risks. Not the least of which is that we could get run over.
The wealth of information tends to come to us from only a few major sources. Television, radio and the internet bring us news, not just local and national but from every corner of the planet, 24/7. Some of those sources believe that we need to know that opposition groups in the former Soviet state of Georgia are demonstrating for change, that Vladimir Putin is putting the squeeze on European countries that buy oil from Russia and that the Dalai Lama visiting Washington and Ottawa has upset the establishment in Beijing.
Do we really need to know all this news? In today’s world, knowing what’s going on in the countries of the preceding paragraph could affect who we vote for in our own national elections. International relations and reputations among countries of the world are extremely important when they often help to determine what trade alliances happen or fail, which can affect the long term stability of the economy of our country. Yes, it is important to know this stuff.
What we need for all this news that could be important is a time management technique that will allow us to attend to the news when we make time to absorb it and to ignore it until that time. Those who do not exercise that kind of time management can become news junkies, who may know what is happening on the far side of the planet but not whether their own kids are taking drugs after school.
From the way many people pay attention to their surroundings it’s obvious that they are in the grip of information overload. Spend some time watching people in the aisles of supermarkets, on roadways or even at parties and you will see how much time people waste because they can’t focus on what is supposed to be the object of their attention at the moment. They waste their own time, waste a great deal of the time of others by their thoughtless and inconsiderate behaviour, and even create situations that can precipitate such incidents as road rage, office rage or household bickering because they can’t cope with the amount of input to which their brains are subjected.
And what do we do about it? We form committees and commission studies which prove that our anecdotal observations are correct. What we seldom do is to teach the conditions of life in modern times to young people and give them the skills of time management so that they know how to prioritize the many demands on their lives.
We could do that. But it takes time. No one has enough time to devote to making it happen.
Just another one of those things that would benefit everyone, but no one wants to take the time to change the education system a bit to put the change into effect. So we all waste time, either by our own design or as a result of having to put up with others around us.
Turning It Around: Causes and Cures for Today’s Epidemic Social Problems, a book about how to change education curriculum to address the real needs of children instead of only the needs of their future employers.
Learn more at http://billallin.com