Years back, one of my favorite TV shows was Hill Street Blues. At the beginning of each show, the police sergeant would conduct his daily briefing and end it with the phrase, “be careful out there”, as the room emptied and the officers headed for the streets. That phrase stuck with me and to this day has become a parting mantra for my wife when she ventures onto the streets of L.A. and into the freeway traffic each day.
But today, there’s an additional way I think about this expression, and it’s not based on the fear of crazy L.A. traffic. Instead, it’s the fear of getting caught in “hijacking” from the noise that is unconsciously reducing my internal cognitive process for developing my awareness, ability and control. Now, the information traffic that imposes it’’s will upon us each and every day, has become the new normal. Eve Tahmincioglu, a writer for MSNBC for example, was writing about this years ago, stating that there were 294 billion emails sent each day in 2010, up 50 billion from 2009, and that’s just e mail. Information overload is most certainly the new normal.
Nicholas Carr, author of The Shallows: What The Internet Is Doing To Our Brains, along with Eric Schmidt, chief executive of Google, are both concerned about the outer / inner balance of our mind, and how this balance must be rigorously maintained if we are to develop and regulate our higher thinking processes. Now, “be careful out there” has taken on a second and more important meaning for me, moving beyond the Los Angeles traffic to the outer world of digital technology traffic. As Carr explains, people are “hard wired” to seek novelty and new information, so the increasing use of innovative technologies that lend themselves to disempowering information (NOISE) is not without its toll. Schmidt believes that we run the risk of altering brain based processing through our increasing cognitive overload, leaving our thinking process “thin and scattered”. We are witnessing this currently, in the levels of distraction that occur in our educational settings, effecting the thinking process of our youth. And through my lifelong involvement in education, it’s painfully obvious that focus, attention and depth of thinking are skyrocketing issues of monumental importance today.
To maintain our “balance”, we must be cognizant of the continuous interplay between our “outer” Circles Of Influence and our “inner” world of positive processing potential. As we “fine tune” our awareness, ability and control, we become more and more adept at sorting through the negative circles that surround us, training our attention to “detect” and “select” the information traffic that supports our growth, development and fulfillment. Today, to become more FutureWise, means beginning to learn how to “be more careful out there”.
This unfolding series of blog posts will tackle the critical questions related to the “new” NOISE. What’s really going on? What does the research show? How can we prepare and protect our choice making skills?
Stayed tuned to learn how to LIVE ABOVE THE NOISE.
Rob Reiher Ph.D.