What Good is Information?

Hands up if you reach for your smartphone when you're in a coffee shop queue or standing in line at the supermarket?

Yep, thought so. We all do it. Because how can we be bored when we have google, right? Free, accessible and, well, there in our pocket. 

The internet promised to feed our minds with knowledge and so we consume as much as possible. What have we learned? That our minds need more than that. Writing in Aeon Magazine writer Dougald Hine argues that knowledge has a value when it helps us make sense of the world and our place within it:

It is the difference between memorising the bus timetable for a city you will never visit, and using that timetable to explore a city in which you have just arrived.
— Dougald Hine

The brief moments 'in between', the downtime on station platforms or in doctor's waiting rooms are opportunities for making human contact or creating space for thoughts to percolate and emerge as solutions or revelations. We limit this potential because we are uncomfortable with allowing our thoughts to roam. Plus we get an endorphin hit from that email ping or new tweet or celeb update. So we stuff more knowledge into our brains but it can leave us feeling empty.

When we follow the connections – when we allow the experience of knowing to take us somewhere, accepting the risk that we will be changed along the way – knowledge can give rise to meaning. And if there is an antidote to boredom, it is not information but meaning.
— Dougald Hine

Next time you want to plug a gap in your day-to-day, ask yourself why you're reaching for your smart device. Notice whether the knowledge you gain is meaningful and life-enhancing or simply digital noise.