The information age is definitely here; in the times when everyone has at least one device with Internet connectivity since early childhood, staying connected and consuming masses of information becomes a daily human habit. Indeed, information has become much more accessible in the 21st century than it used to be a century and even a half of a century ago. Nevertheless, the high (and growing) degree of human obsession with information causes serious concerns about safety and integrity of important historical information.
While the modern generation is mostly forward-looking, it stands to reason that risks of neglecting the past because of too much focus on the future are rising, and the humankind risks losing vital historical data because of over-reliance on digital technology and progress.
The first profound change caused by the information age is the evolving attitude to the very concept of knowledge. While in the past, knowledge used to be connected with authority and tradition, with bits of wisdom transferred in a careful way from masters to apprentices and knowledge being associated with a rare privilege, nowadays everything has changed. Knowledge has become an equivalent of information, which is stored in the digital form and becomes increasingly accessible and available for all categories of people worldwide (Mittelstrass, 2010). However, for some strange reason, such availability and easy access do not make people wiser or more intelligent; on the contrary, something obtained with no pains is less appreciated at present.
A closer look at the situation shows that the modern ‘information society’ is too preoccupied by production, storage, exchange, and distribution of information that it simply finds no time for its thoughtful and reserved consumption for self-enlightenment. In the world where everything is information, and masses of information are continuing to grow and overwhelm individuals, there is no space for genuine, true knowledge that becomes neglected and underestimated in the contemporary haste. Such trends result in what Cox (2000) termed as ‘infomania’ – race for information without in-depth processing thereof.
Another significant aspect of the problem is that the modern technology as such poses a threat to important historical information because of digitizing it and popularizing it in this format as a handy and globally available product. Some centuries and even decades ago, people used to travel through a half of the world to see eternal paintings of grand masters, or to wander around the architectural monuments of ancient times. Individuals used to search for rare and unique books for years to be able to touch upon some exquisite knowledge and raise their level of intelligence. Nowadays, all this can be viewed on sites and 3D visualizations, creating a false impression that once the image is accessed digitally, the individual is already well-acquainted with the artwork (Dewar, 2017).
Obviously, the situation is not as pessimistic as it might look at the first glance, and there still are many individuals able to transform masses of readily available information into knowledge by careful analysis, synthesis, and learning. However, these cases are mostly exceptions rather than rules, and their examples show the ideal ways of using abundant datasets and informational sources everyone can find in one click today (Cox, 2000). The rest, which is the overwhelming portion of the humankind, surf aimlessly in the masses of information and consume empty, redundant data produced for commercial and entertainment purposes rather than for human education and self-growth.
Thus, as the presented evidence shows, the humanity is indeed in the process of a grand transition nowadays, with advanced technologies becoming commonplace and acquiring habitual meanings for consumers. In such an epoch of quick data processing and overwhelming masses of new incoming data, it becomes increasingly important to comprehend the historical legacy and preserve it meaningfully for future generations. While Internet, connectivity, and mobile technology are definitely positive changes for the better in the current society, they prevent a broader historical perspective and involve people in greater risks of losing multi-generational wisdom secured for generations.
Cox, R. J. (2000). The information age and history: looking backward to see us. Ubiquity, 2000 Issue, September. Retrieved from http://ubiquity.acm.org/article.cfm?id=352537
Dewar, J. A. (2017). The information age and the printing press. RAND Corporation. Retrieved from https://www.rand.org/pubs/papers/P8014/index2.html
Mittelstrass, J. (2010). The loss of knowledge in the information age. In E.D. Corte (Ed.), From information to knowledge, from knowledge to wisdom: challenges and changes facing higher education in the digital age (pp. 19-23). London, the UK: Portland Press Limited.