In sum, there is a distinct and resounding contrast between appearance on one hand and reality on the other hand in perhaps any given context or situation. And the only real tools at our disposal which in turn would enable us to distinguish and tell the difference between the two is knowledge and intuition. However, true knowledge is largely innate to the individual and is a priori, and as a result, true knowledge – and thus intuition, given that intuition is developed through knowledge – is acquired more through contemplation and philosophy rather than by book knowledge and data, although the latter are nonetheless important tools for validating the knowledge acquired through contemplation and philosophy.
The ongoing “demystification” of European culture, for instance, or a growing awareness of what the concept and idea of Zionism really and nightmarishly looks like in practice all indicate a closing of a collective ‘learning curve’ per se as a result of a ‘collective consciousness’ that is now contemplating these issues by virtue of the internet and social media. The line between what is “real” and what is “not real” has also been blurred to a certain extent because of the “annexation” or “colonization” of the physical world by cyberspace. “Smartphones” are the new “transitional objects” through which an individual can escape the physical world and enter into a novel reality that is rapidly being defined and shaped by cyberspace, as Byung-Chul Han noted. And as Henry Kissinger wrote:
“Cyberspace…has colonized physical space and, at least in major urban centers, is beginning to merge with it. Communications across it, and between its exponentially proliferating nodes, is near instantaneous. As tasks that were primarily manual or paper based a generation ago – reading, shopping, education, friendship, industrial and scientific research, political campaigns, finance, government record keeping, surveillance, military strategy – are filtered through the computing realm, human activity becomes increasingly ‘datafied’ and part of a single ‘quantifiable, analyzable’ system.”
With cyberspace and the fast-occurring changes in technology as a result of “Moore’s Law” and so forth comes an “information revolution” which is transforming the political and social landscape of virtually every society in the world. And as Kissinger argued, to curtail the effects of this “information revolution” would be “impossible and perhaps also immoral.” On balance, an “information revolution” is perhaps more beneficial for ordinary people than for people in power. The less people know, the better it is for the people in power. And as the previous instances of an “information revolution” in the Western world such as the ones involving the ‘printing press’ and television and radio have shown, political and social changes are inevitable in the event of an information revolution.
However, Kissinger also notes a significant social cost which is exacted on a society as a result of a “visual culture” that is being fostered by television, the internet, and social media, namely, the loss of “print culture” which in turn diminishes ‘deep thinking’ and ‘deep literacy.’ This new ‘visual culture’ that has arisen as a result of the internet and social media has turned deep thinking and reading into a “counter-cultural an act as was memorizing an epic poem in the earlier print-based age.” With the loss of deep thinking and literacy comes a loss of capabilities and potential due to the four information “biases” which are inherent in a “contemporary entrenchment of the Internet and social media” to borrow from Kissinger, namely, the combination of “immediacy, intensity, polarity, and conformity.”
Hence, while there is an upside to technological changes and technological evolutions, there is also a downside that stems from the “corrosive habits” that are fostered by changes in technology and a “visual culture.” And as Kissinger wisely noted: “Although the internet makes news and data more immediately accessible than ever, this surfeit of information has hardly made us individually more knowledgeable – let alone wiser.”
Context and history are things which I have tried to hit home in virtually every blog post, and there is a good reason for it. As Kissinger argued: “For information to be transmuted into something approaching wisdom, it must be placed within a broader context of history and experience.” And in an age when context and history – which are derived through book reading and deep thinking – have been overridden and suppressed by flashy images and sensationalism, deep thinkers and highly literate individuals “must struggle against the tide” in their efforts to shape international affairs. Even the madness and insanity of today has a context and history which explains all of it, even though people in power might be averse towards hearing and reading it.