Information is not Power

We live in the Information Age. The silicon chip has empowered us. Information is power. Everyone knows that. Data is the ultimate democrat. We are in control. We are protected. The Internet and mobile phones have set us free.

So why is it that when we buy an egg and cress sandwich from a reputable supermarket we are eating E260, E415, E200, E401, E471, E476, E202 and E160a and we don’t know what the hell they are?

Information is power? Yeah, right.

There was once a man and a woman in a hot-air balloon. They flew above the clouds and got lost.

“I know, ” said the woman, “Let’s descend below the clouds and ask someone on the street for directions.”

So they did. They lowered the balloon until they were about 50 metres above the ground. Below them they saw a man coming out of an office block.

“Excuse me?” said the woman, “Can you tell us where we are?”

The man on the ground replied, “You’re in a balloon.”

The woman looked to her companion and said “I know where we are. We are floating above the European Union Food Labelling Department”

“How do you know that?” asked the man.

“Well, ” she said, “the information was technically correct…but it’s no bloody use to anyone!”

It’s like those watches that can function 2 kilometeres under the sea or Ferraris that can travel at 500 km an hour. So what? You never use those attributes.

Most of us go through our lives the same way as our grandparents did. We wake up, we work, we meet our friends, we sleep. In the future, these times will be called The Late Middle Ages.

What information do we have that our grandparents didn’t have?

We see fresh images of war from Iraq, babies starving in Somalia and we see that the Dow Jones Index is down three points.

So what? There has always been war and hunger. Watching it on TV doesn’t make it more real. And I don’t even know what happens when the Dow Jones is down three points.

Information is power? So how come in the USA, where technology is more accessible, are there so many obese people? Don’t they have the information about calories and heart attacks?

Information is power? In Iraq there were definitely Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMDs), then probably WMDs, then maybe WMDs, then possibly WMD programmes. Then…

But the war happened anyway. I’m not saying it was wrong, I am not saying it was right. What I am saying is that information is not power.

Power is power. And that means being able to analyse, distinguish and filter information , feelings and desires. That is a supremely human ability that can not be programmed into a mobile phone.

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