Friday, March 24, 2006

Exponentially Expanding Knowledge Syndrome

by Stephen Bates

(Stephen Bates is an artist and philosopher. for 30 years he has played clarinet and bass clarinet for the Opera House Orchestra at the Kennedy Center for the Perfoming Arts in Washington, D.C. and is an accomplished abstract painter.)

There is a new malady which I call Exponentially Expanding Knowledge Syndrome, or EEKS. This condition is the product of the internet. The current thirst for knowledge generated by the internet is categorically different from information sources of the past: books, libraries, encyclopedias, newspapers, and phone books. All of these are contained in the internet, however, the addition of new categories of information increasing at a constantly accelerating speed, has created an entirely new concept of the nature of knowledge.
To begin with, the information on the internet, including print, pictures and audio, is only partially reliable. This means that the reader must understand that what he is seeing is simply the free expression of anyone with a computer. This makes the world itself one large cocktail party. At such an event, one is not surprised to encounter the most outrageous opinions and ideas parading as usable information and knowledge. Up until now, most items in print were subject to careful review by publishers. The internet has created a venue that purports to look like a reliable source of information. This is because blogs look alike and are not trying to be for sale. Supermarket tabloids immediately look highly suspicious and cater to a taste for the unbelievable. One of course needs to separate the wheat from the chaff on the internet as well. However, in the process of doing searches, the chance that information will be more suspect than in published books is likely. This means that we are now engaged in a different experience while on line than in a library. This new mental condition, which I call EEKS, is a development in consciousness generated by the overflow of human consciousness in general.
I refer to it as a malady, but that half in jest. On the one hand it is a malady because we find ourselves deluged with the possibility of endless searching egged on by the very fact that it is possible and extremely facile. On the other hand the condition is also pointing to a new way to look at thought. This new way to look at thought recognizes that the old ways, largely ruled by a systematic approach , is now being challenged by an entirely new paradigm. The new paradigm has been brought about by the following law; enough of a difference of degree produces a difference of kind. The mere volume of what's available, changes our approach to knowledge in general.
Some will argue that much of what is on the net is trivia, wrong headed, casual, useless, even destructive. This is true, however, the same can be argued for well established institutions. One must use intelligence and discernment. But what is the value of all this available information as such?
I think that the mere idea that we can instantly look something up has changed the way we think. This means that now we are developing an entirely new basis for confidence when it comes to expanding our ability, authority and power. This very stance influences what we explore. And given this new possibility of exploration, the mind begins to start coming up with many more angles of vision. Now we see as relevant something that just a few years ago we would think was in no way connected. This new approach to relevance trusts what used be thought of as mere chaos. The links between things is becoming the very nature of thought itself. That is, if we are not making these links, then our thought process is stymied. Everything is influencing everything else. But where does that lead us?
To begin with we need to keep track of the ideas that pop into our heads throughout the day regardless of what they may be and how irrelevant they may seem. This will require a notebook at hand or a palm pilot. When the thought hits, one needs to instantly record it. If not, the thought will probably vanish. This is because the character of the ideas and thoughts are so varied and numerous that they no longer fit into a logical pattern. Unless one keeps jotting down whatever arises in the moment, it will quickly pass into oblivion. But what things are we speaking about? The slightest notion needs to be respected as part of this process. For example, one might be trying to remember a scene from a particular movie or an actress in the movie. This minutia my seem irrelevant. But now that it is always possible to find out about anything that comes to mind, we can’t know the relevance unless we respond to that moment of curiosity. Even the thought of reconnecting with someone from the past(now so much easier to do than ever) may have enormous value if pursued.
Then there is the question of whether this condition that I am referring to(EEKS) is beneficial or a waste of time and energy. I think that the notebook at one's elbow is the key to developing a useful relationship to the vast resource now at our disposal.
The world is in great need of a new way of thinking. The old ways maintain strong ties to the identities of nationhood and culture. Now it is possible to begin the needed shift. Every time one has a quirky moment of wondering about some foreign phenomenon, we are called upon to take a look at it. This moment of looking immediately changes notions that we have had all along. This is because the internet is a different sort of information source. It is wide and complicated specific and vague. Perforce this means that we are thrown back upon ourselves to establish notions of accuracy and authority. This very change that we are going through is a development in consciousness itself.

Sunday, March 12, 2006

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Monday, March 06, 2006

Art Blogs at - "Life Decisions: Becoming a Fine Artist" by Matthew Bates

Art Blogs at - "Life Decisions: Becoming a Fine Artist" by Matthew Bates