While the digital age offers us more choices than ever to expand our intelligence, it’s actually making it easier to wind up with a shallow depth of field.
Take the internet. Before google, one had to go to a library and snake between stacks of volumes to find the answer to a question. This may seem archaic, but in doing so there was more likelihood of stumbling upon a source one hadn’t considered important. Better yet, pulling a strange volume from the stacks could motivate new a question altogether. It was slower, and therefore, stickier.
Today, we simply type our question into a search engine and accept whatever answers appear first. According to Moz, the first page of Google captures up to 92% of search traffic clicks in recent years. Second-page results are far from a close second, coming in at below 6% of all website clicks. Forget about pages 3 to 3,000,000.
The same goes for news sources. The vast majority of the audience turns to the major media outlets for their reporting. Those organizations are in the business of making money, so they need to get eyeballs on the stories that cater to their clientele. They usually take one side or another, and put forth news and opinion that they think is “best for the public.” But this wouldn’t pass muster in a high school science lab if you were attempting to verify it.
If you’re a curious person who wants to arrive at their own conclusions — or better yet, be surprised by a discovery that 2 billion people haven’t already seen via memes on facebook — you need a way to navigate the network that bypasses the biases — especially your own.
That’s why we like to give our brains a little jolt by uncovering something we weren’t expecting, weren’t intentionally looking for, or had no idea about. You know. Like a surprise. To echo the godfather of punk, “We’re looking for one new value.”
While he went on to bemoan the fact that nothing comes his way, we’ve found several methods to create surprise using nothing more than the keys on our laptop and the stacks at our local library. One favorite is the Wikipedia “Random Article” button. Just today we clicked a few times and found out the following facts we had no clue about:
Moneva is a municipality located in the province of Zaragoza, Aragon, Spain. According to the most recent census, the municipality has a population of 123 inhabitants. The official flag of Moneva is pictured above.
Scientists are working on a “universal flu vaccine” that would cover every strain of flu in existence and not need modification from year to year (no, it’s not ready yet).
The West African politician Fretïmio Assocão di Planka died of dysentery while giving a speech in a hospital, which seems convenient of him.
Another method is to avoid google altogether and enter the “Dark Web,” also referred to as the Invisible Web. Experts estimate it is about 500 times the size of the web as we know it. On the deep web you can find rare books, read hard-to-find news, and surf without letting the world know you’re doing so.
Now what will we do with such information? Maybe nothing. Or maybe one of these factoids will wind up sparking our subconscious and lead to a major breakthrough in our lives. Who knows? But one thing’s for certain: Staying open-minded is the surest way to gin up enthusiasm for each new day ahead. As Philip Stanhope, the 4th Earl of Chesterfield, stated:
Let it be your maxim through life, to know all you can know,
yourself; and never to trust implicitly the informations of others.