In 1964, Bertram Goss mentioned the problem of “information overload” in his book The Managing of Organizations, an idea that was further explored in Alvin Toffler’s Future Shock. Toffler believed that the relentless speed of technological and social change resulted in a feeling of “shattering stress and disorientation.”
Fast forward to 2013, when Douglas Rushkoff’s book Present Shock: When Everything Happens Now unveiled the unsettling present, where as an always-on society, we are flooded with information, communication and interaction 24 hours a day.
“Wall Street traders no longer invest in a future; they expect profits off their algorithmic trades themselves, in the ultra-fast moment. Voters want immediate results from their politicians, having lost all sense of the historic timescale on which government functions. Kids txt during parties to find out if there’s something better happening in the moment, somewhere else.”
Getting to the point
If you’ve made it this far, congratulations…here’s a humble proposal to counteract information overload and develop a practice of research and inquiry: Learn Random Stuff (#LRS). But wait, you may ask…isn’t this proposal simply adding to the burden of information that we consume? Why add more?
Learn(ing) Random Stuff takes us on a path of discovery, helping us to understand a subject about which we may not know and discover connections, discoveries and trends that may contribute to shaping our world view. Plus, it’s a hella fun way to spend a little time each day.
The world is an amazing place
Imagine entering a room with 1,000 stereos, each playing a different style of music. The sounds would intermingle and become an uninterpretable wall of noise. Being in such a place would likely feel stressful, disorienting. Now imagine the same room with one random stereo playing a musical style…jazz, rap, rock, blues or Tuvan throat singing (check out this performance of Huun-Huur-Tu at Fantasy Studios).
Learn Random Stuff: The game
Here’s how it works – start by blocking out 30 minutes: Morning, lunchtime, or before bedtime:
- Open a browser and go to Wikipedia.
- Click the ‘Random article’ link in the left navigation.
- Click a link to a word or idea in the first or second paragraph of the article. Try to select something unfamiliar or challenging.
- Read the article.
- Continue exploring and ‘link-diving’ until the end of your designated time.
Congratulations, you’ve discovered something new. Share your knowledge with others. Have fun!
Need a little inspiration? Here’s a quick example of a Learn Random Stuff experience:
The Hummingbird hawk-moth has a hovering style of flight and long proboscis that it uses to feed on flowers. It can be seen during the daylight, dusk or dawn and will fly in the rain, which is unusual for diurnal moths. You’ll have to live in or visit Europe or Asia to see this moth or settle for its cousin Sphingidae in North American.
Two or more broods are produced each year. The adult may be encountered at any time of the year, especially in the south of the range, where there may be three or four broods. It overwinters as an adult in a crevice among rocks, trees, and buildings.
Whether you’re looking for conversation starters at parties or answering questions on Jeopardy, get your #LRS going.