Commentary: Too Much Information

By Louis Zona

Back in the 1960s, British composers Anthony Newley and Leslie Bricusse created a clever musical titled “Stop The World, I Want to Get Off.”

That play has stayed with me and resurfaced in my mind this past week when I read the news that human knowledge is doubling every day. Is that possible? If it is, stop the world, I want to get off! Please! And soon!

I’d like to think that I’m as savvy as the next guy but of late I’m starting to wonder about my ability to keep up with stuff.

I can’t begin to tell you how many times in the last two weeks that my computer has presented me with “the blue screen of death.”

I can’t seem to fix the simplest of problems with that darned machine (there, you see, I even called it a “machine”). Now they tell me that I’m going to need a major upgrade. Heck, I’d rather have a downgrade if I am ever going to keep up with that darned thing.

I now look at my cellphone and discover things I don’t understand about it every single day and it’s 5 years old. Stop the world… Besides, these new cellphones are made for people with 20-20 eyesight.

The rest of us just have to guess that we’re touching the right set of keys.

“Please excuse me, Sir. I’m truthfully not trying to reach the Army recruiting office, I just hit the key marked PS and haven’t a clue as to what it means – post script?”

And besides, you definitely would not want me near any military machines.

 Let’s get back to this idea of a daily doubling of knowledge. At what point do our respective heads explode? Does that mean that a medical student who is just beginning his or her studies can expect to see medical information doubling every day for the next four or five years? 

Whose brain is big enough to handle such an onslaught of life and death info?

And at what point does all of this new knowledge lead to computers that become frustrated with human inability to keep up? Remember “Hal” from “2001: A Space Odyssey” who ended up turning against his human creators?

I know one thing for sure, if communication devices get any more complicated, and if there are no little neighbor kids to clarify things on my laptop, people like me will be searching for a residence off the grid.

Of late, I have been forgetting names. Now I’m told that this kind of forgetfulness happens because we older folks have taken in so much information over the years that the machinery of our minds gets all gummed up with data.

There just is not enough capacity to take in additional information and thus we are slow to recall a name. Now don’t you feel a whole lot better?  You thought it was just you who can stare at a familiar face yet not connect a name with that face.

I’ve tried everything, including associating a person with something familiar. On the other hand that method does have its drawbacks. I remember that our former education director, Peggy, was having a hard time with names and attempted the idea of association.

She tested the system one day at a party. She was introduced to a particularly stout woman with the surname “Fish.” When she reintroduced the woman to others at the party, she referred to Mrs. Fish as Mrs. Whale. That’s a true story and if you knew Peggy, you knew it to be true.

Technology does indeed challenge us, and if the connected knowledge is doubling at such an alarming rate, we really are in trouble. And getting off of this world has a certain appeal.

I think of my car. While I don’t have any high-tech package in it, the technology (radio, phone, GPS, etc.) remains largely a mystery to me.

In many ways, I long for my 1953 Chevy Belair when the knobs on the radio turned it on or off, made it soft or loud, and located my favorite AM station. You knew exactly the direction of your heat flow and whether it was on high or low.

The gas gauge on the Chevy gave you an approximate fuel level and no computer was necessary to figure out if you needed a new fuel pump or just a tune up. All I needed was a small wrench to change oil. Today you need the expertise of a platoon of mechanics schooled in the operation of a diagnostic center.

I wonder if all of these fancy devices, including GPS systems, might also be listening to us as we swear at the traffic barrels that greet us each day.

Actually when you consider the amazing technology of such devices as Alexa, which make the genius of the internet function for us in our homes, one does wonder what else that little box might be doing.

I know what you’re thinking: There he goes again with another conspiracy theory. What government agency might be listening in on my discussion about my brand-new fishing pole or whether beef gravy on potatoes is better than chicken gravy?

But I ask you, why would they not be listening into our private conversations through such devices? If they tried listening into my conversations, they would be punished immediately with a blast of boredom! They’ll not try that again anytime soon!The doubling of scientific knowledge is surely wasted on me.