Instant Answers vs. Delayed Gratification
February 25, 2013
“Where is the Life we have lost in living?
Where is the wisdom we have lost in knowledge?
Where is the knowledge we have lost in information?”
– T. S. Eliot, “The Rock”
“The mobile device is our new magic.”
– Noble Smith, The Wisdom of the Shire: A Short Guide to a Long and Happy Life
“Mobile technology puts real time information in your pocket, allowing everyone to magnify his or her knowledge in any setting.”
– Michael Saylor, The Mobile Wave: How Mobile Intelligence Will Change Everything
How quickly we have become used to finding answers almost instantaneously. We carry smart phones and tablets and are never far away from the Internet and more information than we know what to do with. It’s addicting. I don’t know too many people who would want to give up the ease of researching on the web. But I do wonder what effect all this immediacy has on our inner lives.
I remember (just a few years ago) when questions arose and we lived with unknowing. We lived with a sense of wonder, open to multiple possibilities because the answers were not yet set in concrete. Our minds and imaginations were called into play. We learned to live with uncertainty. Many times we never did find the answers to the questions that had cropped up in our conversations. And we accepted that, too.
I don’t feel any smarter these days when information abounds. Do you? Where is the wisdom and understanding that comes from first-hand knowledge, direct observation and primary experience? These days it seems as if the greater portion of our knowledge comes second-hand from reading about things, on screens or in books, rather than from personal discovery.
“I don’t know what’s the matter with people: they don’t learn by understanding, they learn by some other way — by rote or something. This knowledge is so fragile!”
– Richard Feynman
“Not all of the world’s answers are at the end of a Google search.”
– Don MacLeod, How to Find Out Anything
Google feeds the illusion that answers can be found to anything, almost instantaneously. But just think about all of those answers that are unwieldy, jumbled and complex. There are not always clear or quick answers to messy real-life issues that take a long time to fix. Maybe we need more practice in how to live unsettled and with uncertainty.
“It so happens that a capacity for delayed gratification is correlated with intelligence and attainment in life.”
– Paul Martin, Counting Sheep