OF ALGORITHMS & INSTANT INFORMATION

Isn’t it interesting how epiphanies occur around clusters of events or stimuli? It seems that I sometimes ‘discover’ something I’ve been aware of for some time but have never really ‘known’ until that moment of revelation. Perhaps that’s why I’m so tempted to give credence to Jung’s concept of synchronicity.  

image courtesy of pbrnews.com

image courtesy of pbrnews.com

As you’ve probably guessed by now, there has been a recent ‘event’. The catalyst was applied today as I turned  on my online music streaming service (no names please!).  I have a channel named “Harlem Nocturne” for when I want a deep, retro blues sound. Somewhere toward the beginning of the queue it served up a piece played by Roy Buchanan. It was a long, languorous, smokey piece filled with glorious improvisation. Because I loved it so I did something quite unusual for me – I ‘liked’ it. The change in the usual mix occurred almost immediately. It was as if Pandora’s algorithm was as anxious to anticipate and please as our golden retriever usually is.

This isn’t a complaint. Merely an observation. And that observation  combined with two articles I read this week lead me to that “Aha!” moment. One of the articles had to do with how our reliance on technology may be affecting our long term memory. The other how we’ve lost the fine art of (and spontaneous wonder to be had at) getting lost due to the profusion of GPS enabled devices.

image courtesy of hespiritscience.net

image courtesy of hespiritscience.net

This episode of synchronicity caused me to realize how much we’ve traded a lot of self reliance and learning to deal with the unexpected for a bit of convenience. Moreover, it frightened me to recognize how much this anxiousness to provide us with exactly what we want, all the time is narrowing our experiences and viewpoints at a time when it’s critical to have a broader, more diverse outlook.

Consider the experience of getting a gift that initially seems inane or useless which then become eminently useful or even treasured. Or on your way somewhere, you turn down the wrong street, aisle, or whatever and discovered something wonderful that you would have missed had you proceeded flawlessly to your initially intended destination.Not only that, when we’re so focused on adhering to the electronic instructions, we lose all awareness of our surroundings and the surprises they may have in store for us.  And what if you forgot your mobile device and needed to call someone? Wouldn’t there be great joy and pride in being able place the call without having to look it up?

image courtesy of usatoday.com

image courtesy of usatoday.com

Make no mistake, we’re not technophobes or Luddites. Quite the opposite. But this epiphany has caused us to reconsider or use of and reliance upon data devices. We’re resolved to work harder at recalling information without recourse to Google and the like. We’re breaking out the old paper maps and occasionally relying on them instead of our GPS devices. And, we’re working especially hard at getting lost now and again so we can experience the excitement of discovery.