The Information Loop: Intellectual Stimulation or Retardation?

Today I am going to write about something a little controversial and what I’d like to call fancily the Information Loop. This loop represents every source we get our information from: news, answers to our crockery questions, and how to tie a tie, and by some magic the loop seems to have answers to all of them. I’m taking this up on myself to debate the intellectual effects from our reliance on this repository of knowledge.

Before I dive further, why call it a ‘loop’? And let me assure you I’d done a bit of thinking before calling dibs on ‘loop’. We are often inclined to believe what sources (of information) we chose to get our information from is solely per our discretion but is it really? The prerequisite of knowing where to get your information from is also information. You certainly wouldn’t be reading this if you hadn’t been informed of WordPress. If you’re still not seeing it, the information pertaining to the whereabouts of other sources of information is one that needs to be acquired from a source. There certainly is a hierarchy but it is also a source (of information) and follows suit until you establish yourself in a loop – where you get information from the same sources and turn to the same other sources for more information.

This imaginary loop is so often hard to break because it is intertwined into our subconscious – into our routines. We find ourselves summoning online search engines for quick answers and an instant sense of gratification. We think we are referring to journals that have nothing to do with each other while writing a dissertation but are we really?

The advent of the internet and phones with network/internet capabilities have reinforced this loop even more. Trivial things such as your choice of vocabulary are largely influenced by this loop. What you read in the papers, the books, the tabloids and the sites you visit on the internet often reflect on your writing. This documentation of your inherited knowledge is then another man’s source. You might argue at this point that our knowledge is universal, and I have to refute to that slightly. Yes, largely. But there have been countless languages, works of science and philosophy that have been lost through the generations. Would you say those writing are of less worth – maybe, but they had to perpetuate through our libraries over time.

I am starting to realize I might have sidetracked a little. Intellectually, what are the trade-offs? If you’re someone like me who keeps open twenty something tabs on my browser and a phone constantly dinging notifying me of the newest episode of my favorite podcast, you probably know all to well about information overload and how stimulating it can be especially for someone who’d consider themself an intellectual. My big question of the night is to know if this information overload is stimulating or retarding? Does this staying in the loop of constant information help keep us stimulated or retard us? I’d say both.

It’s very intuitive (and sensible) to point to its stimulating advantage. But where’s the balance in the universe if it’s only giving us a way to stimulate our brains? It should also simultaneously retard us at some level. This loop as you’d image would greatly forbid outside information from making its way in – information from non-conventional (at least for me) sources like people, a symposium or the absurdly dismissed small talk of the local folk.

Allow me to force a personal anecdote on you. This post will conclude after the anecdote. When I was designing an amplifier, I’d often stay in the loop turning to popular (or ‘reliable’) sources in books and on the internet. I’d starve myself on these sources which I’d swore by! When I hit a dead end, the information the loop could salvage me were proving useless. I’d to find a way to break out of this loop – either by luck or extensive research – like talking to professionals in the field to change my current perception of the problem. But eventually, things working out the way I’d liked it and I was able to find the solution in an unlikely source. This source had gone under the search engine radar because it lacked keywords from some of my queries – and also maybe because it wasn’t something most people with the kind of query I’d presented it with would want to visit.

On a side note, I did extensively look up all related publications from some very trusted sources and from the books in my university’s library and in bookstores around town and prepare to be disappointed because my efforts went in vain.

Off I go to my little but half past eight in the evening coffee..


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