Google, Information Abundance, and Why You Haven’t Learned Those Skills Yet

“Merely having an open mind is nothing. The object of opening the mind, as of opening the mouth, is to shut it again on something solid.” – G.K. Chesterton 

My generation has access to more information than any generation before it. The Internet gives people like me astonishing access to everything from ice dancing results and fast food restaurant names to 19th-century county courthouse records and articles on how to domesticate dingos.

It also seems easier than ever for my generation not to gain expertise, not to know topics deeply, and not to know many basic skills.

Far be it from me to generalize and blame “my generation” – but I am the case in point. Despite being a nerd about some things, there are still many things I’m quite clueless about.

I only recently really learned how to sew a replacement button onto a shirt. I know nothing about how to build a bridge. My math is sub-par. I learned CPR once but am not so sure I could do it right now.

All of these things are a Google search away.

And it’s partly for that reason that I have felt no urgency to learn them. This is the information availability paradox (similar to the “paradox of choice” a la Barry Schwartz, really): the more information is available, the less likely people are to grab onto it now.

Procrastination in learning becomes a much more attractive option when we can do it whenever, wherever. We assume the information will always be there in unlimited quantity, and so we take little action to really bring it into our brains.

If you want to be able to do something, you’re going to have to overcome the information abundance paradox. A good first step is realizing the false premise: that the information will always be there.

Who knows that will be the case? Google may be around for the next few millennia (one hopes it’s not the same company) or the next decade. More importantly, you’ll only be here for a few more years (8 or 80 – it’s a pretty short span). And information is meaningless without use.

Want to live life with some knowledge or skill you don’t have? Start learning now. Information gains value with use and time. And now you know that you have access to the greatest sources ever for learning.

Photo by Stanislav Kondratiev on Unsplash

James Walpole

James Walpole is a writer, startup marketer, and perpetual apprentice. You're reading his blog right now, and he really appreciates it. Don't let it go to his head, though.

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