"A person who won't read has no advantage over one who can't read." - Mark Twain
Earlier this year, I developed a new presentation with my good friend, Sean Joyce. We wanted to emphasize the importance of humanity in a world seemingly dominated by technology. We entitled it, “Leadership in the Age of Robots.”
In one of our planning sessions, Sean brought up the concept of “High Tech – High Touch” proposed by John Naisbitt in his classic book, Megatrends. While technology is part of our evolution, our humanness is an equal partner. We must strive for balance between useful tools and critical connections.
On a Saturday afternoon in a used bookstore, I came across a paperback copy of Megatrends. The cover price was only $3.95, which was all I could afford when I was a graduate student in 1985. Now it was only $2.00, and I had that in cash!
It’s amazing how much Naisbitt got correct, even though he couldn’t foresee the impact of the web and social media. What’s also impressive is his positive outlook. He saw the changes taking place, and believed that it would mean more freedom, mobility and knowledge. When talking about “participatory democracy”, Naisbitt remarks that “with instantaneously shared information, we know as much about what’s going on as our representatives and we know it just as quickly.”
The internet has made the availability of information widespread and instantaneous. However, that hasn’t translated into people being more informed.
One dangerous aspect of popular social media sites, including Facebook and Twitter, is that too many people only read the “headlines” and never read the actual stories. In many cases, people share links based on the image or title, without reading the source article. Not only does this not help with sharing information, it makes it easy to share disinformation, often unwittingly.
It’s also important to consider more than one source for our news and insights. Growing up, my parents subscribed to 3 newspapers – the Boston Globe, the Boston Herald and the Woburn Times. The Globe and the Herald usually had opposing views – liberal and conservative – and the Times covered local stories. On one topic, my parents may have agreed with one paper over the other, but on a different issue, prefer the other paper’s point of view.
We have the same opportunities today. A friend of mine posted on Twitter, “Who do you follow that you disagree with most of the time?” An excellent question that made me seek out respected (and respectable) people with different points of view. Authors, politicians and professors who often include links to articles and books that I wouldn’t have read otherwise.
Likewise, it’s important to include offline sources in our information intake. Not everything that’s been printed is on the internet, or may not appear on our browser. Read physical newspapers (you’ll see stories not in your regular feed), subscribe to magazines and become a regular at your local library or bookstore. Be willing to pay for information, because good research isn’t free.
Reading articles longer than 280 characters takes time. Conducting research takes time. Reading books takes time. Becoming educated on a topic takes time.
The benefits of being knowledgeable and informed – timeless.