Information Density

I have an addiction that is hard to shake. It is to information. I think it is a hangover now, as I increasingly put my attention on understanding, knowledge and wisdom rather than gathering facts, ideas, framework and information. But the hangover is in my habits, systems and dysfunctional desire to collect documents and make notes that I hope will be internalised or that I will someday come back to.

On this trip, I needed to have information. This included emails and documents to work from, podcasts and music to listen to, guidebooks and language guides to read and learn from…. And I chose to use a computer, and variety of electronic equipment to help we manipulate this information.

Given the needs I had for this trip, and needs I have once in Australia, I think I have made a good choice. While the computer and digital equipment is relatively carbon-intense, it is also incredibly efficient. It would take much more of my time to even record and transcribe my thoughts using a dictaphone (as I used to) or even my PDA. And, it certainly is less back-breaking to carry my laptop than it is to carry the equivalent lonely planets and other books and bits of paper. That is, it has a much higher information density, but does that also mean it facilitates more understanding and wisdom?

Does the technology that brings me closer to you readers keep me more distant from local people? I guess that is a question of appropriate use, rather than something inherent in the technology itself. My experience has been that I often use the computer or listen to podcasts when there really is limited opportunity to engage with others through having reached the limit of shared vocabulary, or when I have actually been alone.

Given the choices and alternatives, I think I have made the right choice on this trip, and I recognised the value of always having sound facts and information to hand. Having the Lonely Planet, while questionably useful in some ways, has saved me a huge amount of money and time. And, I am also increasingly aware of the space in my consciousness (and in my inbox and on my hard-drive, and in my filing system) that information takes up that may otherwise be devoted to real knowing, real wisdom.

And I wonder – do other people feel this tension, have ways to resolve it, or see the dangers in some of these patterns and dynamics if extended to a societal level?

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