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Information Age Hooey

Perhaps you are spending a lot of time these days reading financial websites. Today I have been drowning in informational trivia; maybe it's my fault for not choosing better websites. Why is it so hard for business writers, in the opening paragraph, to compare the relative sizes of Lehman (September 2008) and the current sickies, Bank of America and SocGen in France? That would let the reader quickly assess the risk and importance of the current mess with one already experienced.

Sure, there are many facets to a comparison of SocGen and Lehman. But American news sources underestimate the importance of anything outside the USA; they are famously parochial. A simple numerical comparison might help their readers overcome some of this.

I keep running into these websites that are too eager to run off into emotion and ideology, rather than balanced perspectives. Meanwhile, the websites that appear respectable and balanced really aren't so; they are just mouthpieces for the Status Quo.

The more I experience the vaunted Information Age, the more hollow it all seems. We are bombarded with quantitative growth in information, but not in qualitative improvement. This is typical of many forms of modern Progress. Actually I'm just restating some immortal words by St. Henry (-David Thoreau), who normally is one of my whipping boys:
" with a hundred "modern improvements"; there is an illusion about them; there is not always a positive advance...
Our inventions are wont to be pretty toys, which distract our attention from serious things. They are but improved means to an unimproved end, an end which it was already but too easy to arrive at; as railroads lead to Boston or New York. We are in great haste to construct a magnetic telegraph from Maine to Texas; but Maine and Texas, it may be, have nothing important to communicate."
And so it is with all the so-called advances of the Information Age. I haven't noticed information becoming better validated, more balanced, honest, or pertinent to what the reader is interested in. It just becomes a bigger pile of infomercials and infotainment, more Gigabytes of garbage moving around at faster Mbps. Or if it's ideological, it tends to be mentally lazy and repetitive; the premises of ideological slants are seldom questioned.


Anonymous said…
I agree with your sentiments. When I need to take a deep breath, a daily occurance lately, I go to the Economist.

Tom in Orlando, searching for the bottom