Learning seems easy, but it’s harder than you think
Learning is fun. It’s one of my core beliefs that the meaning of life is to learn from the human experience and to share those experiences with others. In fact, it’s part of my personal mission statement.
As I grow older, I’ve come to appreciate the accessibility of today’s world. It’s amazing how easy I can learn about anything I want. No matter what it is, there are infinite possibilities available at my fingertips ready to explore.
From my perspective, this advancement took a mere 15 years. Now, answers are everywhere. However, it wasn’t always this easy to learn. I recall a time where learning took a lot more effort.
The Age of Frustration – Learning takes Effort
Early 1990s: Welcome to the before time. A time that I so named to reflect a world just prior to the mainstream use of the Internet. A time emerging from the 80s with the end of the Cold War, MTV, and cassette tapes.
This era often left me without answers to seamlessly easy questions. What was the name of that song? What does this word mean? Where can I find more information about a particular topic? I could ask friends these questions, but usually they didn’t know either.
Sometimes, I would ask an adult. Sadly, the response was usually “look it up”. That meant going to the library, using a dictionary, or reference those rarely opened volumes of encyclopedias that gloriously shined like trophies on a shelf. I remember wishing for a magic answer book to fall from the sky where I could find all the answers.
Unfortunately, the lack of not knowing kept plaguing my mind, sometimes for days. The information was out there. I simply had to track it down. This was especially painful when doing a research project with any degree of depth. However, something magical happened and a new era began.
The Age of Enlightenment – Learning is Easy!
Mid 1990s – Late 2000s: Information flowed. Companies popped up all over the place linking organizations to the world at an amazing rate.
Many people and businesses began hosting their own websites. They started to share information and know-how. Software made it easier to navigate these websites, and companies began to organize specialized tools to search across the Internet. Month over month the world logged in and shared knowledge related to their likes, dislikes, professions, hobbies, cultures, and more.
Finally, that magic answer book fell out of the sky for me to use. Now, I could find the name of the song that was playing over and over in my head. Not only the name of the song, but I could also listen to it. What does the word ephemeral mean? Easy! I just type it into a search engine. Want to learn more about any topic? Again, no problem with the Internet at my fingertips.
Today – The Age of Reason
2010s: As utopian as it seems, there is an unfortunate side effect to the Internet. In today’s age, one can’t take information at face value. There is a lot of information out there. This isn’t necessarily bad, however, many times information conflicts between sources. Even worse, information that’s subjective or simply an opinion is sometimes presented as legitimate data. Therefore, it’s necessary to approach information with a degree of skepticism.
I find myself taking more time to focus on new subject matter. This means reading more articles or watching several videos before I make my own conclusions. Unfortunately, I can easily spend hours on something that would have taken a quarter of the time ten years ago.
This is certainly not a plea to purge information from the Internet. However, I have to apply more effort when searching for answers. The first source on a topic isn’t always the best since an article could be there because of SEO and advertising tactics. Just because it’s popular, doesn’t mean it’s correct.
Fortunately, all is not lost. Algorithms and searching methods are improving. Real world controversies are pushing companies to help improve methods in which information is organized, searched, and validated. This process may take some time, but in the end these pain points will hopefully create a better tomorrow and help reduce the time and effort it takes to find answers.
The Internet is one of humanity’s greatest achievements. However, it has become so vast and full of information, that it’s easy to fall into a trap of accepting the first source of information as the answer.
However, this can be overcome by practicing a little more patience and skepticism. It means being objective about information, and question proposed facts and know-how. Furthermore, use other sources to learn about the topic from different perspectives, especially today where websites are vying to distract people with clickbait and sensationalism.