THE BLOG
01/23/2012 05:40 pm ET | Updated Mar 24, 2012

Help Me Understand ...

... why we can't seem to shut up. Any of us. Yes, I mean you. Maybe even me.

We live in an era of over-communication surpassing the grotesque, bordering on the obscene. We are now the helpless victims of TMI, or Too Much Information. The proliferation of PCs, email, texting, cell phones and a myriad other forms of electronic support for the human need to process professional and social life is depriving us of the will to think clearly, analyze correctly and act decisively.

We can have unlimited amounts of digital data and infinitesimal information, petabytes of information and negligible knowledge, trillions of morsels of knowledge and little wisdom, wisdom being what you do correctly about what you know to be right. Information is not power. Nor is knowledge. The real power: wisdom. It takes lifetime effort to distill. The latest analytics firms are now explaining to us that database search and the extraction of our real-time phone and computer, to distill wisdom, will save us -- here's their number -- hundreds of billions of dollars a year in wasted human effort.

Slathering electronic prostheses onto the act of thought does not automatically enhance that thinking. Spending more and more hours as slaves to these electronic tyrants does not implicitly improve intellectual performance. Having a cell phone almost surgically implanted to the ear, day and night, or tapping away with the thumb on that minuscule keyboard, while oblivious to everything going on in the external world, does not, of itself, mean that you or I are smart. In fact, it shows more that we have become enslaved to digital machines. Use these devices while driving, and you will, statistically, end up killing people, perhaps even yourself.

Yet now, thanks to the miracle of digital systems, we can communicate in moments every fleeting whim that invades our fuzzy little minds. So we do. We may think we're working, but we're gumming up the works, distancing ourselves from the people and events we might think we are manipulating but comprehend imperfectly. Many of us offend others in our immediate vicinity with noisy, self-important twaddle.

Try this: sit with paper and pen (parchment and quill, if you prefer). Spend a couple of hours writing an analysis of your situation. Consider the end result; appraise the POV of those you want to influence; map out the sequence of events that must come between now and salvation, whatever form that salvation may take.

Now, go back. Remove half of it. Delete adjectives and adverbs, trim all verbal fat. Reach at most 5-6 conclusions (the span of effective, short-term human comprehension). Only then communicate the result. The rest is, or should be, silence.

Instead of PowerPoint presentations and massive data-base stores of 'information,' accessed by 'search engines,' we will be forced to rely on -- gasp, shudder! -- real life. In place of endless hours massaging minutiae 'twittering' and passing on every momentary mental impulse, time may now be spent -- oh, horrors! -- deliberating deeply.

The by-product is valuable: by keeping all the tedious, inconclusive, defocused front-end mess to ourselves, we will save our friends and associates incalculable amounts of time. We may even be able to achieve the results that we wish fervently to attain.

In the words of the great Ring Lardner, Jr.: "'Shut up,' he explained." You could, as they say, look him up.