Monday, October 19, 2015

'To think'...? Or 'To browse'...?

"You have a great time at your family reunion," I said to a 75 year-old gentleman, as he was leaving my office.
"Oh...I'll try, Doc.  It's just going to be a bunch of people buried deep into their smart phones," he replied ruefully. "Nobody talks any more."
"Well, that's the sign of the times. But all this access to info makes the next generation so smart," I said. 
"I'm not sure, Doc. All these guys can rattle of numbers, news and facts. But talk to them about any subject a little bit in depth, and they get lost. It's all very superficial," he said, as he walked away.

That statement did stick with me as the day went along. I did some reading that evening and came across some interesting articles. One of them, by Nicholas Carr in the Wall Street Journal was published a few years ago. The essence of the article was to question the benefits of excessive use of the internet. It said that the internet gives us a lot of information, and because of the massive amount of facts and figures, we neither have the time, nor inclination to think about the info we accumulate.

So what's important? The depth of thought or velocity of thought? People who are avidly hooked on the net, can rattle off numbers and have a lot of information on almost any subject. But our brain can only handle so much data. As per the article, recent research revealed that compared to a couple of decades ago, random samples of populations have more superficial knowledge, but less intelligence. Less intelligence?!

I researched it a bit more and realized intelligence & wisdom are measured by the depth of knowledge, not the amount. I was surprised by this revelation. Here is some food for thought. Is the best informed man always the wisest? Sometimes the converse might be true -- the multiplicity of knowledge might make us lose sight of what is essential or important.

Its a lot easier to believe than to think. Maybe that's the reason there are a lot more believers than thinkers. A comedian once defined the Brain as an "organ with which we think that we think". Knowledge is a process of piling up facts; wisdom lies in their simplification and application. According to Isaac Asimov, "the saddest part of life is that science and technology gather knowledge quicker than society gathers wisdom." 

The more we think, the more complete we are.

"You know why some people get lost in thought? Because its such unfamiliar territory!" ~ George Bernard Shaw