As the bailout package went down in congress yesterday, and the stock market starting dropping like a stone, I was trying to solve a problem in a database at work -- with a pair of web browser windows set to National Review's The Corner and the WSJ Financial Page that I would click over and refresh every five or ten minutes. In the "information age", it's easy for the information hungry to go on an information binge: Ah, the Dow is down 600 points. Oil is down. Now the Dow is only down 500. Representative Cantor criticizing Pelosi's politicization of the bailout -- Pelosi is a piece of work but that seems like a dumb reason to vote against it. Now the Dow is down 650. On, and on, and on.
Information is not the same as knowledge, however, and it is most certainly not doing anything. Not only does my instinctual desire to find out what's going on fail to achieve anything that I'm actually supposed to be getting done (professionally, personally or intellectually) but it does not actually achieve my goal of being informed, because from minute to minute there is not generally anything to know. We have, in this modern age, the ability to push images and text out to the world constantly, but that does not necessarily mean that there is anything worth reading among the stuff produced in the last five minutes at any given time.
In a sense, the old morning and evening newspaper editions cycle reflected the speed at which real information becomes available better than the age of blogging and 24-hour news channels does.