Is noise the message?
When I was in high school I had to do a report and the topic I chose was noise pollution. It was the dawn of the 1970s and people were beginning to get up in arms over air pollution. Both of these pollutions are byproducts of the Technojungle. I was quite amazed to find out just how unhealthy and physically damaging noise pollution can be. Some problems are: high stress levels, hypertension, hearing loss, tinnitus (ringing in the ears, or other constant noise in the head), sleep disturbances, plus many others. As I edit this book, I have to endure the constant noise of construction on the new townhomes next door and the massive highway interchange going in a block away. The banging, in particular, is nerve shattering and the modest, but continual sound of the motors on the compressors for the nail guns leaves me on edge. Then there is the pile driving down the road for the highway, traffic on the highway, sirens, trains—it is endless Technojungle noise pollution and I remember a little from my report as to what it does to me. Noise pollution is just one form of Technojungle noise.
Noise pollution is not only from sound, information can pollute. Let’s talk about another form of noise. Do you sometimes feel like you are swimming up a Technojungle river, against the current? You may be striving with every stroke, being carried away in the current and flow, treading hard to keep your head up—to keep from drowning in the oceans of information? Should this be human life in the Technojungle?
It’s like struggling to swim in the torrential flow of a flooded river only the struggle is with information. Welcome to living in the information age or the media age. You must pick and choose from millions of menus which information you wish to consume. These days, you also need to make sure you select good information. What is good information?
We humans are surrounded by plenty of information from the Technojungle, but how much of it is valuable, useful, accurate, or even true? That’s right, not all information from the Technojungle is good for you. Somewhere in all the daily din of information you must sift through is the message. The message is the content and meaning that is being communicated to you by another person or group of people and is also of importance and worth to you. When the amount of information and the number of messages increases, you need to determine what is most important and of greatest value to you. It seems I spend more time weeding the mass of information I get from the Technojungle than I spend with the information that truly matters to me and makes me a better more human person. This is more of that unexpected Technojungle baggage we drag around that needs to be unpacked.
What is that other information? What about all the less important and less valuable information? That’s just noise. Like useless sounds that get in the way of you hearing something you want to hear, as with effective communications, there is information that is noise. Can you learn to ignore this noise, or at least deal with it quickly? What happens when you don’t? This Technojungle noise will waste your time and attention. It will draw you away from increasing your knowledge, skills and abilities—away from understanding and humanizing wisdom in the way you truly want.
The impacts of noisy information, or information pollution, can be severe if we are not aware and careful. We can find it difficult to make decisions, choose the best option, and determine good solutions. Anxiety and stress levels can climb and you can reach information overload. Learning processes can be disrupted. Beliefs and values, perspectives on situations and life, and moral directions can be affected. People can become apathetic to important issues and events because there are simply too many. I would argue that information pollution can cause a weaker grasp on truth and reality in both individuals and societies.
When I watch TV, I don’t want to watch the noise of commercials. They are there to cleverly try to persuade me to buy a product or service. I flip to something else. I have to be careful or I will find it is too easy to get lost in the TV Technojungle, even mesmerized into watching useless TV shows that really have little or no value or interest to me. It’s not only TV, the same thing can happen with online content. Some people might shrug at this sort of TV content and call it escapism. In other words, they are tired and overwhelmed and just want to escape from life—veg out. The same goes for music, in fact, can’t any information from any media have a noise component? Shouldn’t we all be critically thinking about what information we are consuming and how it is affecting us, making us more or less human?
Back to sound for a moment. Over the years, a combination of many things, including mostly noise, has left me with Tinnitus, or ringing in the ears. It is constant, loud and permanent sounds in my head. It never stops. Sometimes I can sort of ignore it, but most of the time it is truly disorienting and troublesome in my life. Could there be a Tinnitus equivalent for information—information that is persistent and never goes away?
There’s even more noise to consider. We covered what is valuable and useful information, so what other forms of information noise can you think of? I find that I am increasingly having to deal with which information is accurate and true versus inaccurate and false. I always have to keep in mind that human life is about quality, not quantity. I am better off if I take the time to verify information rather than believe it and move on because I think I will never get through everything I want to get through, which, of course, would be dehumanizing.
How can you verify information from the Technojungle? I try to stick with reliable sources. There are reasons why traditional news sources are worthy, however you can and should, verify those too with other reliable sources. Even the traditional news media are struggling to provide deep coverage of topics and most no longer have the resources to do truly deep investigative reporting. Sometime they can’t properly verify news which is already on other media, such as social media.
The pandemic has intensified probably every difficult aspect of news and information due to so many uncertainties about the virus. It has been difficult to truly believe everything presented from the many sorted outlets. Not only have experts been changing their tunes on topics as they learn more about the virus, but often conspiracy theories have come to look like the truth and the truth has come to look like conspiracy theories. In between the vast range from mainstream sources to alternative sources have been truths and lies to make sorting out what is accurate a constant and difficult struggle leaving people confounded at times. When the very experts we are supposed to trust say one thing one week and another thing the next week, it becomes difficult to know what to believe and who to trust.
There has been quite a lot of buzz around the idea of fake news. We must be careful not to spread inaccurate or false information through the Technojungle. Our responsibility is to avoid being part of the problem. What sources do you follow that you feel are accurate? Do you read, listen and watch with a critical mind? Don’t believe everything from the Technojungle as truth unless you are sure. Don’t believe everything just because it is on TV. As the old saying goes, “…trust everyone, but always cut the deck.” That is, make a final check before you bet.
These days there are many ways to get breaking news through the Technojungle—some official and some unofficial. The professional news media take great care to verify news and information. The Media hold a responsibility to keep governments and our society in check. People rely on the reporting of correct information. With the Internet and cell phone technology, everyone can report the news through the Technojungle. However, it may or may not be well researched, entirely accurate, or verified. News gets out on the social media of the Technojungle about an event occurring even before it can get on the official media. The news media struggle to keep up and verify information and not miss out on the latest news. Could ordinary people start a frenzy or panic by propagating erroneous or fake news through the Technojungle? Or, would such an occurrence be corrected by other people at the source who might tell a different story? Either way, at times people get carried away by excitement and become less than accurate in what they see, hear and feel during an event. After all, humans will be human, even in the Technojungle.
Our goal as human beings is to grow in that which makes us more human than a machine—wisdom. Do you think a thinking machine could one day have human-like wisdom? How do we obtain wisdom? Wisdom might be gained from the assimilation of the best of information (not noise) into knowledge and understanding blended with real life experiences and common sense. Perhaps it may also include something that might be described as intuitive insight. One result of having and using wisdom is good judgment. Is good judgement based solely on accurate data and information? As you safari, tune out the noise and listen to the messages. Take time to link them to what you already know. In this way you can come to understand the message better.
Perhaps information is like food. If I eat a lot of different kinds of foods, some will be good, some not so good. If I keep eating, I will get quite a bit more of good food, however, I will also get more bad food and that food will make me unhealthy. Could we get Technojungle information indigestion? If I can identify what is good for me and eat mostly that food, I will be more healthy. I think our mind works in much the same way, with the goal of having healthy wisdom. Un-clutter your mind from all the noisy information and your body, soul and spirit—your entire human life—will be healthier and you will be more human.
We have all had indigestion and know the uncomfortable physical feelings. I am suggesting an idea, somewhat tongue-in-cheek, that we may experience some form of mental, even physical, indigestion due to information overload.
Some people might argue that the world has changed, that there is too much to learn these days. They would say that, as you immerse yourself in the sea of information, the message will get through. In the same way, instead of studying an image, such as a painting, one would view many, perhaps hundreds, of images to get the message. It might be a different message though.
Depending on the situation, I think the amount of Technojungle noise in relation to the message, messages, might be very high, perhaps reaching well over 90 percent. That’s a lot of noise and a lot of time to filter out the noise. Check the speed of images that are flashed before you from the Technojungle on TV. Like viewing billboards from a fast-moving train. Can the human mind sift and sort out some wisdom from all that Technojungle information noise? Can we get the correct message from among the noise? Do you think that maybe what’s important stands out, no matter what the flow of information? The noise is certainly going to do something though. It seems clear to me that this is a situation of us being kept busy and overwhelmed—not in control, even dehumanized.
Should we care? Why not simply go with the flow? Why not just see where we end up somewhere down the road in the future and enjoy the trip through this noisy Technojungle? This is exactly what most of us have done following the promises of the future. Now we have the unexpected. It is noisy baggage leaving us busy, overwhelmed and even out of control and unable to think for ourselves. There is something about us that wants to be in control. It is a human survival mechanism. Should we let technology carry us away, down the Technojungle river into the info-abyss? Is the Technojungle making us too machine-like and eroding away aspects of what makes us human, such as wisdom, creativity, intuition and spontaneity?
Environmental pollution has caused some serious problems. Some, such as the hole in the ozone layer of the Earth, have been for the most part solved. Many rivers, lakes and the air surrounding many cities have been improved. This led people to believe that future Technojungle problems could be solved too. Suddenly climate change and global warming swooped to the top of the list of global concerns. While noisy information pollution is not likely to cause direct damage to the planet, we don’t want to wake up someday and find some sort of catastrophic outcome from not stewarding our information. Let’s keep in mind that it is our information and that our machines use it too.
The online Technojungle world of social media is a noisy place. As I step from my cozy blog and take a safari out into the world of social media, or most any other part of the World Wide Web, it feels like I have stepped into the bustling busy streets of a major city, or a market, or a mall. Sure there may be the occasional tidbit of interest among all the bustle, but it gets buried and drowned-out by all the noise. Is it worth the cost of contending with the daily din in hopes that I might actually stumble upon something of value to me in all the rubble of information? For many it may be a fun pastime, but other people are truly afraid they may miss something.
I am not necessarily new to the world of Technojungle social media. However, during the writing of this I made a more concerted effort to explore social media for a while. I’ll simply submit that it is not really my cup of tea. The exploration meant learning to find my way around in the giant Technojungle of social media that I had only poked around in previously. One day I remarked to someone that sometimes I feel like I have landed in Disneyland without a map. Having seen something from afar, perhaps from an aerial monorail, I attempt to find it again from the ground. Good thing there is the search engine (insert your favourite one here) monorail I can get on and ride around, as a short safari, to get an overhead view.
Above: My first experience with a monorail which allowed people at the 1962 Seattle Worlds Fair to not only get around fast, but to get a bird’s eye view of the fair.
Below: The Disneyland monorail traveling through Tomorrowland.
There was a department store we went to when I was a kid. It had a gigantic toy department. At least it seemed enormous to little me. From the ceiling hung a small monorail. Yes, we would ride that monorail and look down at all the toys to discover something we might miss on the many high shelves while standing at floor level. Toys stood assembled on the tops of shelves and could best be seen from the monorail. It was a way to search engine the toy department. Perhaps this book could be viewed as a monorail over the Technojungle.
For my books to get attention in this new world of the Technojungle we now live in, I will have to get on the social media busses and walk the streets of the Technojungle web to look for interesting ideas that can fuel my writing. These trips are about developing my product, marketing and promoting it. It is necessary for me to trek on safari into the Technojungle.
For a while I spent copious hours, sifting the bags of E-mail I got from following discussions, following links to more articles to read, Liking, tweeting, commenting, gathering ideas to write about and, squeezing in a bit of focused writing when I could. I doubted I could keep it up as I juggled my time between my human real world and the online Technojungle. It was a sort of jungle juggle. I decided to cut back the Technojungle drastically with my E-machete, but it seems to just keep growing back. It is like trimming and pruning a laurel hedge only to find it has grown back the next day.
It’s a strange Technjungle world out there. I’m trying to work in it more now than I have in the past. The noise is like a thick mud that I must trudge through to find the crystal clear pure water of valuable, important and useful information buried deep in the Technojungle. It is certainly easy to get carried away in the current, distracted into a time waste black hole. If I am to be of any help to others, or even myself, I must trek on. I must raise my curiosity and wander to the depths that I may be able to lead you to some important points of interest so that you can journey on your own safari and discover ways of being human beings in the Technojungle.
Have you been aware of information noise pollution before reading this chapter? Can you recognize this kind of pollution better now? Pay more attention to actual sound noise pollution. As we trek around in the Technojungle, are we leaving some kind of artificial, or virtual, footprints?