A gentleman once told me, "A gentleman is someone who can play the accordion, but doesn't." I wonder what he'd say of campus researchers who can find funding for almost any project, wonderful or weird.
My best guess is we're gluttons today for information. Any information. Consider the billions of tweets, millions of blogs, and uncountable wisps of data floating through global cyberspace every day. Display all this to a rice farmer in Malaysia or a wheat farmer in Kansas and it will probably get the shrug it warrants when they ask back: "But how does that help my crop this fall?"
Sometimes facts are like the emperor's clothing -- a fanciful figment of our imagination which we assume can protect us. Maybe. But over time, don't we usually discover the difference between instant information and enduring wisdom? Pretty much the plot line to the movie 'Moneyball' and its clash between the young number-cruncher and the battle-tested manager.
Having said that, sometimes information = wisdom. Two recent research projects come to mind:
* A UCLA study of 1800 high school students concluded that one in seven had engaged in "sexting," and these students were seven times more likely to have unprotected sex. Especially the girls. When asked if the release of these messages and images weren't humiliating, most girls answered: "All the kids are doing it."
* Another research project reported on LiveScience.com that brides-to-be jitters just before a wedding can be a strong indicator of trouble to come. The study followed 232 couples over four years, learning that the jittery brides had a divorce rate 19 times higher. The conclusion: "While 40% of brides report nagging doubts before the wedding, not all doubts are benign."
This avalanche of data pouring out of our screens every day -- do we use it to swim or to drown...? Either way, I still don't believe I'll ever play the accordion.
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