One forgotten ancient suggests what we might do with all of today’s information
When reading, I numb. When surfing the Internet, my eyes glaze. When thinking — about all the things to be thought, all the books to be read, all the websites to frequent — I freeze.
Not always of course, but occasionally.
Everyone knows about the mammoth caverns of information at everyone’s door: two billion websites; thousands of must-read new books every year; piles of magazines and newspapers; cable television; streaming services and their docuseries; AM, FM, and satellite radio; podcasts; entire libraries digitalized and online.
It’s gotten so bad that a group at Kings College in London studied the effects of “informational overload” and concluded that it harms concentration more than marijuana.
And that was about ten years ago, when we had only 100 million websites to choose from.
We now speak of “information literacy,” a branch of knowledge dedicated to searching and deciphering information. Efforts to increase information literacy are spearheaded by the American Library Association and funded with federal and private grants.
Everyone calls it the “Information Age,” but that doesn’t do the endless proliferation of data justice.
It’s better called the “Too Much Information Age.”
Enter a pagan saint
If the TMI Age has a pagan saint, it might be Pyrrho of Ellis.
Historians of philosophy refer to this younger contemporary of Aristotle as an early skeptic, but he wasn’t. The skeptic claims there’s nothing to know. Pyrrho was more radical. He said we can’t even know if we can’t know. He was skeptical about skepticism. He was neither dogmatic like Aristotle nor a debating skeptic like the later Carneades.
He was rather like the agnostic who stands between dogmatic believers and atheists, refuting neither but agreeing with … Read the rest