Sunday, January 3, 2010

The Next Big Thing?

"The fox knows many things, but the hedgehog knows one big thing."


David Carr in the New York Times celebrates the still (to me) mystifying Twitter, going so far--perhaps slightly tongue in cheek here--as to deem it the cyberspace equivalent of plumbing, something that far from being faddish, will become second nature to all but the most benighted among us. The power of Twitter? Access to information, but not just any information, rather, fresh information, what is happening now.

If people can be divided into Platonists and Aristotelians, or hedgehogs and foxes, then perhaps they can be divided into those who crave information and those who crave wisdom. The former view life as an engineering project--if we could ever have adequate data and organization, we could develop the promised land. The latter view the problem as failing to make use of the information we already have, perhaps even a universal "datum" that we have lost sight of or can't seem to fully appreciate.

Is life more of a moral or a technical challenge, or is this a false dichotomy? The technophiles are forever anticipating the next big thing(s), whereas the moralists await the once and future "thing." (Or perhaps people can be divided into those who relish dichotomies and those who don't).


Anonymous said...

Elusive fundamental 'wisdom' once found/acquired/stumbled on requires religious-like commitment. Imagine if it turns out to be false and you've built your entire life upon it? Tragic. Random 'information' is easier to discard if it's proven false.

All wisdom begins as information.

Novalis said...

In the end, I guess, there is only information, "wisdom" being higher-level information, or information concerning how to prioritize information. Wisdom begins and ends as information.

Dr X said...

"'wisdom' being higher-level information, or information concerning how to prioritize information."

That's an interesting way to describe wisdom. The higher level information influences what we will see and what we will not see, but it isn't a straightforward bottom-up or top-down process.

So then what tells us if we are dealing with wisdom? Is it wisdom if it orders lower level information in a way that best aids survival or "quality" of life? Is it about something that gets closer to truths independent of us? Am I now creating false dichotomies?

Novalis said...

Great question. I think that in speaking of "wisdom" we are invoking the highest sense of truth, not in any narrow empirical meaning, but in the sense of how life ought to be lived. The degrees to which this is influenced by our contingent biology, or by our contingent social context, are open questions.

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