Monday, February 23, 2009

Flickering Pixels: CH 6

I am a little frightened by Google, though, I would not protest if my blog was at the top of the page when the name Tim was entered. Everyone has his price. (Coincidentally, if my full name is entered, old cross country results appear—once upon a time I was a decent athlete.)

I recall the first time hearing Google as a verb was in the movie Hitch. The proper noun was synonymous with ‘finding something out.’ This is not far from Google’s mission: to organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful.’

Google has its critics. Copyright lawyers have sued Google for infringement. Legislators have tried to block the company for monopolizing the search engine world. An attempt to purchase Yahoo was recently shot down for that very reason. And some Internet users are bothered by the permeation of advertising behind the engine.

My problem with the virtual Googliath is philosophical. In an age of relativity, truth is now defined by popularity. Google is the antithesis of the elementary school geek: In Googleland, you’re popular if you get a lot of hits. The result is people confusing accessibility of information with usefulness. Mission half accomplished.

“Electric Faith,” is the title of Chapter Six in Flickering Pixels, in which Hipps discusses the effects of the Internet on Christian thinking. The chapter opens with Hipps recalling a failed witnessing effort. Mustering up the arguments of C.S. Lewis, Josh McDowell, and other apologists, Hipps realized he had answers to questions post-modernists were not asking.

We can blame the Internet and Wikipedia for taking truth from authority figures and moving it to the voices of anonymous contributors, but the trend started long before in Morse’s invention of the telegraph. Morse’s initial message, Hipps reports, was prophetic: What hath God wrought? (pg. 66). In arguably the best line of the book, Hipps notes “[T]he telegraph tapped out the obituary of absolute Truth and created the conditions necessary to usher in the postmodern age” (pg. 68).

The reason the telegraph, and later the radio, television, and Internet, were so dangerous is the rate in which they sped up the flow of information. Thus, ‘information increasingly became a commodity in itself, something that could be bought and sold’ (pg. 67). In his book, The Disappearance of Childhood, Neil Postman says that television is a medium that ‘must be filled’ and does not discriminate concerning its content. The lack of filtering and the unlimited access has, according to Postman, killed childhood. Moreover, it makes me think that Google’s mission to make information ‘accessible’ is, in ironically misinformed.

By dissolving mystery and secrecy, such media have likewise destroyed accountability. Unlimited access to information has created a false sense of maturity. Wisely, Hipps takes the second half of the chapter to distinguish between ‘information, understanding, and wisdom’ (pg. 70). He convicts our culture of being trivial and wisdom-depleted. To develop wisdom we need ‘time, experience, contemplation, patience, suffering, and even stillness’ (pp. 71-72).

I know too many information junkies. I hear too many people reciting irrelevant news stories. I have encountered too many folks who are data-fat but common-sense deficient. Let us slow down so we can learn and apply.

Perhaps this is why you should be reading the book (or The Book), not this blog.


Integrity Check

Hipps: 51

Total: 557

Percentage: 9%


4suchatimeasthis said...

I have noticed this trend. We feel that we 'should' know how many calories in this/that, and the threat level of the USA, and germ avoidance, and crime rates in our city, and which schools are the best and worst for our kids, and which type of medicine we want, and the quickest way from here to there, and the current state of the glaciers and the rain forest, and the weather for tomorrow, and which kind of investments are best, and the status of all 153 friends on Facebook, and how much caffeine is good for us, and on and on. There is so much information easily available that we feel responsible to have it all, all the time and act on it. And sometimes, I think it paralyzes us - or keeps us in the information gathering state, and keeps us from actually DOING ANYTHING worthwhile. Maybe that is why there are such things as "mid-life crises" and emotional breakdowns. We were made for a higher purpose, and we find that from knowing our Maker.

Sprained Ankle said...

I'm reminded of public service announcements that would run on TV in between commercials. They always closed with those magical chimes and the words: "The more you know..."

These commercials, of course, were the classic example of an ellipsis, in which the latter half of the phrase was implied. The more you know...the better off you are. But as you point out, this is not always true. I KNOW flossing every day is good, but I don't floss (because I can't decide which brand, flavor, and material I want).

Knowledge has become a commodity, and like good Americans, we've overspent.