A Short Piece Based on “The Grand Technology” by O.G. Rose
Are we turning to the internet to figure out how to stop the internet from overwhelming us?
If we have all the information in the world, it will be useless to us if we do not have the ability to evaluate it. This is becoming undeniable with the internet: it’s an amazing research tool, but if we don’t come to the internet with some level of “prior knowledge,” as David Rieff pointed out, or if we don’t gain from the internet a framework through which to understand the internet, the information it presents us with will prove difficult to organize, overwhelming, and probably useless. We won’t have the ability to interpret it, to determine the true from the false, the probable from the improbable, and/or the conspiratorial from the real. We’ll end up like Dante in a dark wood but without Virgil, lost.
When we face “infinite information,” that is often when the existential realization hits us personally that we don’t have the capacity to determine what we should believe and what we shouldn’t. Before we personally faced “infinite information,” we could “abstractly know” that we couldn’t handle or process “infinite information,” but now we have to live with this knowledge directly. Better yet, that “infinite information” is basically always screaming at us that the world is going to end. That the government is out to get us. That our children are at risk. That the corporations are destroying America. That the family is falling apart. The infinite information is screaming at us to evaluate is accurately right now, and if we don’t, our loved ones could suffer. There’s a moral imperative, as Nietzsche said, to drink up the sea.
What do we do?
Learn how to evaluate the internet? But how? By going online and garnering tools and methods of evaluation? But how do we find them? How do we trust them? The internet is the problem we face, and isn’t it foolish to trust the problem to provide us with the solution?
But what else do we do?
Well, we turn to the internet. Sure, it’s a habit, but what other source of information do we have from which to learn? Where else can we look in hopes of finding an answer? A library? Too slow! And going there won’t shake the feeling of our “personal encounter” with “infinite information” anyway. We can’t “unsee” what we’ve seen, as Vladimir Nabokov once put it.
The problem we face is also the source of its solution (assuming a solution exists). We’re trapped. We’re trapped in a prison composed of the “infinite information” we don’t have the ability to evaluate. What do we do? Well, we must learn how to evaluate information, which, I believe, means we must master mental models and epistemology in general. We need to think about thinking, and that’s going to take a lot of ink…