I downloaded the TED app on my way to a meeting yesterday. An hour train journey and I was a little bored. The tap of a finger. A free download. And suddenly I had a mountain of information and inspiration –
It is, when you stand back, quite incredibly awesome.
I have talked a lot about connections to other people but the other thing I’ve re-discovered is a thirst for knowledge and a curiosity to learn. The subject is almost irrelevant: I feel, at the moment, like a giant sponge.
On the bus in the morning, I read through Twitter. For a delicious hour, I can click on any number of links and find myself learning about neuroscience – or politics – or philosophy – or the development of media – or the latest technical invention. Knowledge is no longer segregated and I am exploring areas that I have never previously thought about; discovering new interests; realising that things I’d viewed in distinct themes overlap and sometimes connect. The environment comes into urban planning which intersects with human behaviour which goes back to media which takes me to technology and innovation which links to education then we hit politics –
One question leads to another and I am leapfrogging through knowledge in a way that I could never have imagined. If I follow this thought where will I end up? The limits to what we can discover have been pushed way out; and, it’s happened so quickly that I have forgotten to step back and consider how fortunate we are.
I was talking to a colleague about this later in the day. Getting a little over-excited about how accessible knowledge was and how I loved being able to both drive and experiment with learning, how the only imperative was a curious mind – when she reminded me that this was only one side of the picture. There is the side where the wrong things can easily slip into the wrongs hand and kids are reading things that they probably shouldn’t see. The bit where the mass of knowledge becomes a bit overwhelming and it becomes hard to extract the key vein. My feeling that I am skimming the surface of so much that my mind is constantly buzzing but there is not a whole lot of depth. The risk that the world is being further divided by those who do – or don’t – have access to things like the internet. The fact that I find it harder and harder to work out where my real passion are now, and end up getting distracted and lost.
I am not dismissing any of that.
I am good at writing about my feelings. I am comfortable pulling them apart, slightly protected in the knowledge that the subject is totally subjective and only ever presented as a perception. A few days ago, I was commenting about the difficulty in voicing opinion. On how I find it far harder to articulate what I think about things rather than what I feel about them. How it requires a different sort of courage and one which is possibly less about being right or wrong, but believing that there is value in what you think; or, at least, wanting to join in the conversation.
There is an interplay between opinion and self which, with my emphasis on working out my feelings, I have slightly underplayed.
And so, for me, the great thing about TED apps – and Twitter adventures – and the surprising links that people send me – and Stumbling into unknown places – is not that I am becoming an expert in anything, nor that I have discovered my true calling. It’s that I am just exploring my mind a little bit and appreciating that knowledge is another thing that connects people to the world.
It’s not rocket science. It’s just something that I temporarily forgot.