The cost of the Low-Cost Information Age – Coffee for Thought

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I thought I would play some open-ended thoughts here.

I was looking at a CNN special presentation on Aug 6th about something we have recently discussed — OLPC, FonePlus and low-cost  computing. The presentation was on NGO efforts in rural india and south america, but one of the managers of an indian-run learning institute said somethign that struck me as food for thought.

He was speaking of bringing information technology to these people, and said something of the likes of ‘that is what will truly help them. If they can immediately have access to information from all over the world, that may not make them the next business leaders. But it will let them become human beings. The knowledge and information they get will let them become human beings and a part of the world.’

Here is what intrigued me about this comment : I thought to myself ‘but what used to happen to these people before having access to all the information? Did they not get raised properly and become human beings anyway?’

See the food for thought is a bit deeper than just this discussion : it is fair to say that the information that you receive as a child helps you become more self-aware, and hence helps you become a complete ‘human being’ per say. I agree with this.

However, my problem is with the source of information. Before the plugged-in lifestyle, this ‘key information’ that is needed for you to become human came from your parents, your friends, society around you and also from theology.

[Sidenote: This is built deep into the fabric of islam. Parents play a crucial role in the social, moral and ethical outlook of a child — it defines how those children will view the world, and how they would view themselves internally as they take their values as the base on which their principles are defined later on.

One islamic concept says this to the extent where the entire purpose of one person’s life is just to make sure that the values which existed in Madinah get transferred over successfully to your children — a ‘handing of the baton’ of islamic values to subsequent generations. —] 

It is possible to enjoin good values on your children when all of the information which influences this perspective comes from sources close to you.

With the internet, one of the biggest fears that it brings is that the infomration which affects your child’s outlook on life now comes from a global set of conflicting opinions.

As the sources increase, the attention and focus your child gets to certain important perspectives gets scarce (first law of media). Also, the confusion creates internal conflicts which will ultimately have him lead a life-long quest to ‘find himself’ just like most of us — except that the child would be more lost than we ever were, when all we had in our childhood was PTV and the stories of our grandparents.

That is the thought meal of the day : while having more information will certainly help us become human beings, does the internet reduce the ability for your own values to get transferred to your children?

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3 Comments

  • You bring up a very interesting point, that projects like OLPC will continue to diffuse culture, making it more grey than distinct colors, and further disconnect us from our past and people.

    Thanks for the new insight.

  • Thanks for the comments Wayan.

    I have some ideas on how we can try and reduce the ‘information noise’ which causes this diffusion, and hope to write about them soon.

  • well it certainly makes it difficult, but kids have been rebelling from their parents for millenia, even prior to the information age. Maybe it is easier now for kids to hear about opposing views, but kids are really smart and perceptive, so they see through parents efforts to shield them. As the mom to a 4 year old girl, I can say that keeping the noise to a minimum is hard. I think the mitigating factor, if there is one, is that parents are (or should be) around their kids enough to explain why certain viewpoints are right or wrong, or why some choices are better than others. Nonetheless, the core values a child will hold for their whole life are established in the first few years, so parents need to understand that and teach accordingly.

    cheers

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