mississippichem wrote:One might consider this a Renaissance of information. Over the last ten or so years, many aspects of our lives have become integrated with computer and internet technology. Here is a not so exciting but somewhat demonstrative example. ... This seems trivial to us now, but would've been science fiction thirty or forty years ago and unfathomable sixty years ago.
This situation strikes me as a revolution, not a renaissance, in the availability of information. But it strikes me as a two-edged sword.
First, while a great deal of information is available, an even larger quantity of misinformation is not only available but promoted. The internet is awash with wacko web sites promoting illogic and just plain falsehoods on any imaginable subject. To effectively use the valid information that is available requires knowledge, intelligence and discrimination. Properly used the internet is a tremendous tool. Used indiscriminately it is worse than useless, it is a detriment.
Secondly I have noticed a tendency for people to use electronics and internet access as a substitute for thinking. Having access to a vast store of data and thought does not confer understanding of that material. We have people attempting to address deep questions at the frontiers of research without any understanding of the basics, often basing their understanding on distortions obtained from internet sites established by the lunatic fringe. It is also the case that software written by experts is available that allows people to "solve"problems that are otherwise not only technically difficult but in fact involve concepts that are otherwise beyond their capability to understand. The danger here is a false sense of understanding and the potential to unknowingly generate nonsense by violating the assumptions that limit the software.
A revolution in information availability can only form the basis for a renaissance in intellectual productivity if it is used to amplify, rather than replace, basic thought and reasoning. It remains to be seen what will eventually happen.