Twenty years ago, the ‘Information Age’ offered to make us all rich.
Information would flow like water on the internet — freely, irrigating minds all over the planet, and bringing forth such a fulsome crop of invention and innovation that it would take our breath away.
That was the promise.
A Niagara of information would splash over us…drowning errors…washing away sin…and cleansing the world of ignorance. Now, we’d all have access to the very best information in the world. We could all build nuclear reactors, if we wanted.
And we’d know, too, the correct attitude towards third-trimester abortions or presidential pardons. And if we ever felt the urge to invade Russia in the wintertime, we could call up a translation of General Caulaincourt’s memoire and see how that turned out for Napoleon.
Get out of Russia, fast!
Too bad Bonaparte didn’t have the worldwide web at his fingertips. He could have googled ‘How to get out of Russia — fast.’ When that yielded no help, he might have considered air support.
Yes, it’s all there…just a google search away — the explanation of how partial vacuums provide lift…the design of the modern airplane…a detailed description of how a jet engine works…even how to make bombs that could be unloaded on the Cossacks.
Wow! Then, Napoleon could have taught those Russkies a lesson. He could have called in air strikes…what a devastating effect that would have had!
All he needed was aluminum…precision tools and machinists…quality steel…refined airplane fuel…and a few decades to master the necessary skills.
Uh oh. He had none of those things. And the information provided would not have helped in the least. Instead, it would have hindered him — he would have wasted precious time and brainpower on information that was irrelevant.
Besides, how much information do you need? How much can you use? An old friend wrote recently with a further insight:
Remember Albert Jay Nock’s essay, ‘Dining in the Motor Age’? In the early 1920s, before most highways were even paved, Nock foresaw that an increase in the speed of travel doomed old-fashioned restaurants that served well-made meals to travelers.
In his classic prophecy of the degeneration of the art of public cooking, Nock foresaw a new type of restaurant catering ‘to people who come along from God knows where in motor-cars, eager to snatch a bite of anything, and push on.’ Nock continued, ‘For the most part, they would eat raw dog without knowing the difference.’
He attributed a large measure of this effect to the automobile, which had so accelerated the pace of life that people no longer had the patience to wait for a well-made meal.
Nock seems to have anticipated the rise of McDonald’s. He had a hunch about the Information Age, too. Here’s our old friend again:
He also suggested that processing ideas was a lot like eating. ‘The mind is like the stomach. It is not how much you put into it that counts, but how much it digests — if you try to feed it with a shovel, you get bad results.’
The avalanche of information pouring in to the overwhelmed mind of the average schmo may drive him to the McDonald’s of the mind. Superficial analyses that could be the intellectual equivalent of raw dog, but seem relatively tasty because they can be swallowed without wasting a lot of time.
Perhaps a consequence of the Information Age is that serious thought is being swept away in the flow of data like a car in a desert flash-flood.
Fast-food for the mind
More important, while you’re being stuffed like a Christmas goose, you have no time to think clearly…and no reliable ideas and information to think with. All you have is empty calories…fast-food for the mind.
Our hunch is that you’re going to need something more than that in the years ahead. A huge crisis — caused by fake money and fake thinking — is coming. You’ll need real money and real thinking to get through it. In this fast-moving, highly charged, and dangerous setting, you will need the ability to think clearly and calmly about what is going on.
You won’t be able to do that if you have been captured by the mind-bending memes of the public media.
Which is why turning off and tuning out is our No. 1 recommendation.
So, turn off the TV. Turn off the internet. Read a local newspaper…but with much cynicism and doubt.