“We are drowning in information, while starving for wisdom. The world henceforth will be run by synthesizers, people able to put together the right information at the right time, think critically about it, and make important choices wisely.”
Information in the digital age is as critical as it is overwhelming. However, because it is intertwined with cultural relics, selfish interests, specialist blindness, the majority of publications are misleading at best. Snippets of sentimentalism and disjointed “facts” unrelated to any sort of recurring theme are bound to irresponsibly incite emotion or be excreted as quickly as they were consumed. A quality publication operating under the Renaissance ideal in mind has the potential to bring many different people together, to encourage a rational exchange of ideas and facilitate the shedding of cultural conditioning and cognitive biases.
Knowledge is a whole, not a plurality. As Leibniz, da Vinci, Goethe, Thomas Young and other intellectual giants have realized after years of grueling journeys into dozens of unrelated subjects, one cannot talk about anything without talking about everything. It is within this alien and demanding frameworks modern civilization finds itself. The Himalaya-like stacks of new abstracts are too much for any one person to tackle, yet a group of dedicated people can distill the most vital parts and present it in a way that is stimulating, coherent, entertaining and, above all, useful.
The goal is not to paint easily forgotten miniature scenes, but to create a panorama with each issue. Whether it is avoiding an outdated medical procedure, better investing one’s time and money, or overhauling one’s entire belief system, unfamiliar ideas matter more than familiar ones. Although always crucial in war as well as peace, the effective dissemination and analysis of intelligence matters more now than ever. Sadly those with the intelligence to competently process data are the ones least likely to have the time to sift through it.
Specialization will never be completely annihilated. Nor am I advocating its annihilation. While the door may not slam shut, there will be fewer as greater amounts of creativity and interdisciplinary proficiency are required to produce new advances. The sort of person who scoffs at this idea is likely illiterate. Not by the laughably low standards set by governments, but by the standards that are increasingly being enforced by economic reality. To some degree we have all been cheated by a particularly pernicious meme: exercising even an interest in a field outside one’s own is, at best, a waste of time. At worst it is a mortal sin and an insult to its practitioners to even dabble. Need I mention all of those working outside of academia who have made lasting and various contributions to human thought?
A topic like nanotechnology, for example, is complex. It requires knowledge physics, chemistry, (perhaps) biology, law, economics, culture, corporate behavior, and international relations. A useful article may also require some guesswork since so much time is consumed by trying to create accurate forecasts–and with good reason. Predictions can be made more sound when an integral approach is adopted. There are a few bland dialectics in American politics. Swinging always between thesis and antithesis. Nowhere are Bourdieu’s ideas more applicable than mainstream culture. Fields and games, wherein the most ridiculous events are taken the most seriously and glamour obscures by blinding. It is time to rise above the machinations of mere sociology and renounce our amor fati. This odyessy begins with our minds.
And all things must have a beginning.