We got my daughter a digital camera for Christmas. She loves it. It’s not the greatest piece of tech, but it will store 1,000 jpegs that are 640×480 pixels. And they upload to the computer.
We gave it to her the day before Christmas, so she could capture the action on Christmas Day. She has an admirable eye for making mundane subjects less intolerable.
We noticed something else. Now that she had the power to record each slice of history, she felt the overwhelming need to do so. (Hey, it’s not just her. Nor is it five-year-olds. We all like to play with our new toys.)
She took pictures of everything she could. I was amazed the batteries held out as long as they have. Snapping photos of the tiny build-it-bears she had gotten from Santa.
She even took pictures out the window. She doesn’t know anything about focal length, lens optics, aperture, lighting, or anything other than point and shoot. I couldn’t very well explain to her that all she’d get was a blur as we drove down the highway.
Long views are more focused
How much of our time and energy is being spent capturing and measuring and documenting things that really don’t matter? I know many people who followed each twist and turn of the Primary coverage the night of January 8th. (Those of you in New Hampshire are excused.) Pundits and Prophets came down from Mt. Sinai with new tablets every ten minutes, proclaiming to the world that the balance of power in American politics was shifting under our very feet. Political Tectonics.
What disturbs me is how jittery we’ve all become about such tiny movements. We’re trying to steer the car from the backseat, and instead of eyes focused forward we’re divining the future in patterns of bent grass at 70 miles per hour.
The speed of thought
It’s not just politics, although the propensity for instant punditry is much greater. It’s the way news is advanced from one cycle to the next. It’s the way tech reporters and consumers are reacting and responding to every silicon nugget. It’s become our reflex to shoot first, and ask later whether the camera settings were any good. After all, if you can burst 30 frames a second, you’ll get at least one good one, right?
Our brains can process enormous amounts of information at one time, but it’s distributed networking, not raw speed. It’s the connections and patterns that make us smarter, that make us who we are. The electrical impulses jump the synapses in a blistering 1/5000th of a second… but because the neuron must “recharge,” the signals in your nervous system can slow to a range of 20 inches per second up to 100 yards per second. (Computers are easily a million times faster.)
Yet we can soak in the big picture. Focus further away, let the picture fix, and the details will resolve. Look further, and things become clearer.
[tags]Ike Pigott, Occam’s RazR, politics, technology, sociology, news[/tags]