Blown To Bits

Connected but Hermetically Sealed

Monday, August 25th, 2008 by Harry Lewis

Ben Stein, writing in the Sunday New York Times, bemoans the loss of contact with the “real world” that accompanies our greatly expanded capacity for digital communication.

What he is really saying is that too many bits are reaching us. In the old days (that is, five years ago or so), the paucity of sensors and the weakness of communications technologies meant that we had to think harder about the limited data we received. And sometimes even process non-digital data, such as the sunlight reaching our eyes.

Now we have digital sensors galore and the technology to funnel megabytes per second to us from all over the world. Our processing capability is now consumed with just keeping up with the inputs and outputs. Not enough time is left over to think deeply about what is going on, the way we used to do when we read books.

The line of reasoning is not wholly original, but it’s not wholly wrong either. Look back at my August 18 post about the paradoxes of improved communications technologies.

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