Are we ready for the age of information hygiene?

Dhaka,  Tue,  26 September 2017
Published : 16 Aug 2017, 21:25:21
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Are we ready for the age of information hygiene?

Syed Ibrahim Saajid
Imagine a situation 15-year back when someone asked you a trivia and you did not know the answer. The only way was to find the relevant book/encyclopedia and then maybe you could get an answer. Now in 2017, it takes less than a second for Google to fetch the information for us. Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to the age of information hygiene.

A bi-product of this Internet revolution is the death of sacred knowledge. We simply do not need to know information anymore. Internet has devalued knowledge. This is not simply about facts and figures rather any sort of knowledge. If it is already attained by human species, it is available out there on Internet. For example, if anyone wants to learn origami, they can do it via watching videos on YouTube. Once this writer bought a new TSA-lock suitcase but did not know how to open it for the first time. It took around 20 MB and a one-minute YouTube video to solve the problem. If this had been ten years ago, this writer would have probably had to drag it back to the store. Furthermore, if you need to understand a concept in detail, head over to Quora or Yahoo Answers and there will be someone with expert knowledge on the subject ready to help with an answer. It is that simple and easy to get information in the age of Internet.

Then the question comes-- if not knowledge, then what qualifies humans as relevant resources? There are two things, the first of which is called aptitude. Aptitude refers to one's ability to grasp a new concept and apply it to practical tasks. It paves the way for us to use the existing pool of knowledge. It also helps us to concentrate on a given task without losing interest. And this skill is directly affected by the storm of information battering our mind at any given moment. The more verbal 'garbage' is around, the weaker our concentration becomes. The more the thoughts of others circulate in our minds, the harder it is to hear our own voices. The online stream of information weakens our ability to discover ourselves. Aptitude allows us to break through this information clutter and get the job done.

The challenge of the twenty-first century is to steer above the cloud of redundancy and concentrate on creating something new, i.e. innovation. Identifying new and efficient way of doing things is valued much more than simply 'knowing' things now. However, this does not mean that everyone has to be a researcher or inventor. Our value as a human resource now lies in the ability to use knowledge for contributing to the collective skill and ability of the organisation/society. It allows us to generate more and more new ideas. The day is not very far when artificial intelligence (AI) and smart machines will take over most of our routine and mundane tasks. The human mind will be free from everyday rituals that define our lives now. The value of ideas and innovation will become even more at that point.

Unfortunately, we still ask questions like 'what is the capital of Peru' or 'what is the currency of Indonesia' in our most crucial and competitive tests like university admission or Bangladesh Civil Service (BCS). As an accomplished quizzer during college days of this writer, it used to be cool to be able to instantly answer these questions. But those days simply are over and our education system needs to adapt. Our students are not encouraged to think out of the box rather in most cases reprimanded for thinking anything outside of the text books. If we do not move into aptitude-based tests and encourage innovation at all levels, we will keep producing graduates with just a bunch of memorised general knowledge garbage and little or no particular skillset and learning attitude. This is dangerous for a society, especially one which is trying to keep up with the digital world.

We need to remember that 'Digital Bangladesh' will not be achieved through summits or conferences; it has to be achieved through our people who are coming out of this old-fashioned education system and that context itself creates a challenge.

The writer is a marketer working in a telecom company. He can be reached at

saajid90@gmail.com
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