Tonawanda News

Columns

May 4, 2014

DUVALL: Information is money but knowledge is power

Tonawanda News — It’s become cliche to describe the American economy as an “information economy.” I suppose that’s true. But if information is the currency, knowledge is the real power. And while the former exists at our fingertips, the latter seems more and more elusive every day.

We’re bombarded by information nearly every waking moment. Every email, every text message. Radio, television, newspapers, Twitter, Facebook. Our smartphones can carry the equivalent of a pickup truck’s worth of documents and enough music to fill you father’s basement with vinyl records. (Remember those?)

And that’s just the stuff we actually took the time to save for ourselves. The Internet is a portal to all the information in the world, sorted and searchable, poised to satisfy whenever an inquiring mind wants to know it.

There’s so much information we have to self-select which of it we actually pay attention to. The overwhelming majority of sensory data our brains encounter goes unnoticed by the conscious mind. Do you really remember what the billboards on the Youngmann advertise? Or what song was playing on the radio while you were driving? Maybe, but it’s unlikely. Your brain has to prioritize things and the proximity of the next closest machine rolling 65 mph down the road with the power to kill you is more important than how much it costs for a car wash at Delta Sonic.

The point is, yes, information is vital to our economy. All those billboards cost money. Bands and record companies hope their song registers enough you’ll buy it.

But information, while expensive in many respects, is also cheap and getting cheaper every day because there’s so much of it. With iTunes, Pandora, Spotify, Youtube and the endless number of illegal downloading sites, you’re able to access any song in the world. Garage bands on the other side of the world are there, waiting for you to find them.

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