The August 13 edition of the New York Times included an informative article by Neal Gabler entitled “The Elusive Big Idea.” Gabler is the author of a book about Walt Disney and a senior fellow at the Annenberg Norman Lear Center at the University of Southern California.
His thesis in the article is that we are drowning in information, with neither the time, nor the desire to process it.
Think about this for a moment. Just 15 years ago, you would not be doing what you are doing right now – reading a blog. There were no blogs. Your phone would not beep when a new development in the news occurred. Everyone has knowledge to share, and everyone has the capability to access it. But, in what ways are you processing, implementing, or transforming what you know?
As a result of all this access to knowledge, your big idea is easily lost. As Gabler says, “If our ideas seem smaller nowadays, it’s not because we are dumber than our forbears but because we just don’t care as much about ideas as they did. In effect, we are living in an increasingly post-idea world – a world in which big, thought-provoking ideas that can’t be instantly monetized are of so little intrinsic value that fewer people are generating them and fewer outlets are diseeminating them, the Internet notwithstanding. Bold ideas are almost passe.”
He goes on to say that in the past, “we collected information not simply to know things. That was only the beginning. We also collected information to convert it into something larger than facts and ultimately more useful…[now] we prefer knowing to thinking because knowing has more immediate value. It keeps us in the loop, keeps us connected to our friends and our cohort. Ideas are too airy, too impractical, too much work for too little reward. Few talk ideas. Everyone talks information.”
And much of that information is personal – where you are going, what you are doing, who are you meeting with, and so forth. The early days of Twitter popularized this method of sharing personal knowledge.
The problem is that we now have fewer thinkers, and fewer people who transform the way we think and live. We have no shortage of information. We know more than we ever have before. The question is what are we doing with it?
Gabler’s article suggests that we won’t be thinking about what we know. “What the future portends is more and more information – everests of it. There won’t be anything we won’t know. But there will be no one thinking about it.”
So, he ends by saying, “think about that.”
I don’t believe many people will think about it. They will just turn to the next blog entry, the next page, the next news channel, and so forth, filling themselves with short-term knowledge.
What do you think? Let’s talk about this really soon!