Here is the essay I just submitted to the competition held by the Institute of Chartered Accountants of Pakistan.The topic was to emphasize on the negative aspects of information. Mind you, its a full 1000 word essay, writing it was quit fun thou.
Did you know the Earth weighs 5,972,000,000,000,000,000,000 tons and your heart beats over 100,000 times a day? Did you also know 259,200 people die every day? Did you know that the fastest computer in the world could process over a quadrillion binary operations in a second? Did you know that over 2 terabytes of information are added to the already existing information in the world every day?
Who has not heard of these phrases of information? All of us have, we all have had our encounters with information, at some point in our life. However, what has all this information done to improve our standards of living? Have we, as humans, improved because of this information, have we refined ourselves with this information? Do we feel more love and respect in our hearts, now, that we have all this information? We know almost everything, but the harsh truth is that we have not improved as humans. We have not been able to sophisticate ourselves, even with all this information.
In the by gone eras the shamans and the monks and the priests were thought to have to been able to talk to the gods. In this age, when we are obsessed with information, the most informed consider themselves gods. The magnitude of human ignorance has proved itself proportional to the amount of information present at any given time. Human feelings seem to have eroded with this influx of information. It seems as if the human emotions, all of them, even the strongest such as love, hatred and pain have been washed away by this torrent, this flood of information.
Recently 1,100 people died in an earthquake in Indonesia, BBC reported that in Africa 400 children and another 300,000 people would starve in Darfur, even if help was sent immediately. Even after knowing all of this, how much pain do we feel? The Bombings in Iraq, the drought in Sudan and Ethiopia, the wars, we never care. We still buy Nike, accused of using child labor in Vietnam; we still love chocolate knowing that children aged between 12 and 16 are forced to sow, harvest and dry the beans in Ivory Coast and Ghana. Even after knowing all of this and more, we remain ignorant, not feeling the pain of those thousands suffering. What has all this information done for us? Alleviate our ignorance, feed our arrogance, this is all information has done for us. Thousands of women are raped each day, hundreds commit suicide daily, fathers sell their daughters, mothers kill their own children, all of this is known to us, but we don't feel the pain of it, the depth of it. We do not generate the responses of anger, anguish, frustration, and desperate urgency that should be generated on acquiring such information. We have grown numb. We have become conditioned to this influx of Information.
The question remains, WHY SO? Why have we become conditioned to this? Why have we grown numb? Why do we not feel anything? Simply, it is our nature. It is the human nature to become conditioned. It is nature to adapt and self-preservation is a basic instinct of all living things. Humans are exceptionally well in adaptation and in self-preservation. The impulses of adaptation and self-preservation are constantly affecting our decisions and our actions. We will shun whatever thing causes fear; we will try to remove discomfort, as pain causes discomfort. Pain and fear are mechanisms of self-preservation. The impulse of self-preservation rules our decisions and actions. Adaptability enables us to channel our decisions and actions. Human beings un-like other life forms do not need generations to adapt. A single generation of humans is capable of adapting to and coping with change, several times over. Adaptability comes in the form of acceptance; acceptance of a fact such as the earth is getting hotter or the acceptance of a social norm like smoking. The human adaptive ability is evident from the fact the certain acts that were considered a taboo in our society just 5-6 years ago, like smoking cigarettes and sheeshas are now considered a norm of the society; cigar is now a status symbol. Adaptability and self-preservation are the key variables that determine our course of reaction.
We as human beings are adapting to the deluge of information flooding towards us; in this adaptation, we are conditioning our minds. We create physical barriers to protect ourselves from physical harm. To protect ourselves from emotional harm, we are constructing emotional barriers, desensitizing our selves, trying to preserve our selves. We do not react because we fear the same may happen to us. We have made our selves emotionally distant from all that is happening around us. This has created a stalemate in our minds. We talk, talk, talk, and do nothing. Drawing room politics as it is rightly termed has become our social norm.
To us the person suffering is in a very different dimension, a world apart and we think the miseries that afflict that person can never afflict us. This hail of information has forced us to differentiate between humans. We ever so often forget that the person who is suffering is a human just like us, and we are no different from the victim. We imagine that by desensitizing our selves we have succeeded in protecting our selves from pain and suffering. The stalemate that occurs in our mind because of the desensitization, gives us a false sense of protection. All this information, instead of changing our world for the better, has changed it for the worse. Self-preservation has become our focus.
When we sit in front of our televisions enjoying our food, watching a documentary showing the emaciated, shrunken children of Ethiopia craving for a crumb of food, we go on munching… we feel nothing as information has drowned our senses. As we live in this age of information, we know so much, but we feel so little.