Claude Shannon, a father of Information Science, had to call the differences that move through telephone wires something. He picked “information,” a term that had meant, roughly, something that you hadnt known, or the content of written tables. Had he called it “data,” or “patterns,” or “differences,” or “Arthur,” we would have skipped right past one of the false continuities: from information to knowledge. We would have had the Age of Patterns, characterized by an abundance of patterns of difference, and we wouldn’t have thought that that has anything much at all to do with knowledge. But, because traditional information had something to do with expanding what we know, we tricked ourselves into thinking that our modern technology is about making us smarter. With an abundance of information, it seems we must be gaining more knowledge. With an abundance of patterns, or differences, or of arthurs, it would not have seemed so.
The new age is one of connection. This is less misleading, for it has us looking for its effect on how we connect with one another, how we connect our ideas, and how we connect our connections. And these are, I believe, the right places to be looking.