I’m not wishing the Internet away. It has become so integral to my work — to my life — that I honestly can’t recall what I did without it. But it has allowed us to reflexively indulge every passing interest, to expect answers to every fleeting question, to believe that if we search long enough, surf a little further, we can hit the dry land of knowing “everything that happens” and that such knowledge is both possible and desirable. In the end, though, there is just more sea, and as alluring as we can find the perpetual pursuit of little thoughts, the net result may only be to prevent us from forming the big ones.
The second from grumblebee’s Ask MetaFilter comment:
One can get by in our culture without problem-solving, so why bother with it? By get by, I mean that one can make a good living, have a big house, kids, etc. without having to solve intellectual problems.
And — most important — one can be a “smart person” (as our culture defines it) without solving problems. Most people want to be smart. They want to be seen as smart by others. Our culture sends a really strong message to them, which is “memorize a lot of facts and you’ll be smart.” My guess is most people think they ARE doing rigorous problem solving when they see something that needs to be done and have to search through their mental database to find the right fact or the right formula. I guess this IS a kind of problem solving, but it’s the easiest kind. It’s similar to solving a problem by searching on google until you find the answer.
Those two are percolating in my mind alongside this, from Tim just now:
It turns out that social networks are actually terrible places to try to send a message en masse. At some point, they stopped being a high-function version of your email address book, and became a kind of low-power broadcast antenna. It might be a great station, but it’s static-y, there’s too much filler, and it’s all too easy to drive out of range.
The proliferation of small facts can short-circuit a more profound understanding. (Of course this is the pattern I’d find here, right?) But what do we do with this, exactly? Especially in domains like social networking. How do we build systems that enable higher-order intelligence to thrive?
(See also “The intelligence pyramid.”)