Human potential is an amazing thing.
Often, we lose sight of the larger picture of the world as we get engulfed by the distractions and responsibilities of modern life. You’ll hear people reminding you to “stop and smell the roses.” These platitudes often make sense or affect change in small, fleeting ways, but rarely cause a long-term shift in one’s perspective.
Ego is typically the driving force behind decisions that carry any sort of weight behind them. Children don’t want to disappoint their parents, employees strive to mask their dark secrets from employers, significant others fight urges to do anything that might cause each other pain and religious people struggle with thoughts or feelings that challenge their faith. Behind each of these things is a desire to include or exclude, to affirm or deny some self-perception you’ve constructed within your own mind. In some way, you seek to validate to the world that, as a member of your self-chosen sample group, you deserve to be rewarded for conforming to expectations.
Content without context is just noise. Data has been commoditized in the same way that food has; where consumption is a goal without proper meaning, a race to complete a task that is stripped of any significance beyond trying to cling to a feeling of satiety. In a sense, we are now doing to our minds what we’ve already done to our bodies. Social networking has been heralded as a great democratizer of data; everyone is potentially a journalist and content creator. While this makes for a wonderful soundbite, the reality is that most modern communication is completely insignificant. As much as we’d like to believe that today’s greatest thinkers may surface from some remote corner of the world because of their ability to share their stories with us, they are often just lost in the noise. The sheer volume of data being created on a daily basis dwarves the recorded output of humanity over the centuries of human history. So today’s Einstein may be languishing in misery, frustrated that his message may never extend beyond his small number of followers, while every passing thought of some transient pop sensation is broadcast to a wider audience than any of our most revered historic figures could ever have hoped to reach.