More than ten years ago I discovered John Naisbitt’s famous quote: “We are drowning in information but starved for knowledge.” This month I’ve discovered a wonderful piece by Neal Gabler that goes further: The Elusive Big Idea. This is a really short excerpt of the best points, but please read the whole piece and think seriously about it! (for the record, the fourth point below is one of the many reasons why I still prefer writing and reading to podcasts and videoclips)
We may be the first generation to have gone backward intellectually from advanced modes of thinking into old modes of belief.
In the past, we collected information not simply to know things… but to convert it into ideas that made sense of it. Today information competes against ideas. Knowing takes time, but has immediate, practical value. Ideas, instead, are too much work for too little reward.
Thinking about ideas that can’t instantly be monetized is no longer done, period. Logical argument and debate
[of ideas]have lost the battle to superstition, faith, opinion and orthodoxy.
Many factors have contributed to this post-idea world, including the rise of an increasingly visual culture, especially among the young - a form in which ideas are more difficult to express.
It is certainly no accident that the post-idea world has sprung up alongside social networks. You can’t think and tweet at the same time, because tweeting… is a form of distraction or anti-thinking.
The implications of a society that no longer thinks big are enormous. While profitable ideas may change the way we live, they rarely transform the way we think.
In the future there won’t be anything we won’t know. But there will be no one thinking about it. Think about that.