“Humans have a shorter attention span (8 seconds) than goldfish(9 seconds)”.
This headline generated waves a few months ago. Goldfish are capable of holding a thought for a moment more than we do. Why goldfish? Is it because research is available on the subject, or the figures are in close vicinity? A fruit-fly is supposed to have the lowest attention span of 2.3 to 3.4 seconds. Do we take pride in having an attention span higher than a fruit fly? The human span of attention has declined from a figure of 12 sec to 8 sec in the last 16 years. At this rate, where are we going to be in the next 32 years?
Oh! Have I lost you already? This gibberish has taken more than 8 seconds. Do these numbers really matter? Do other organisms see life in the same manner as we do?
This has never been truer than in the present context. We scroll through the device screen and life, absorbing the shorter posts, the pictures, and bookmarking the longer articles to be scanned (not the same as ‘read’) later. Life comes in capsules, smaller the better.
The challenge though is to weave the bits and pieces into an overall pattern, and comprehend the underlying and the overarching theme. I have a lot of folders on my devices, and am meticulous about saving files in the right place. But are we creating these folders in young minds?
Solar radiation travelling towards the Earth, gets modified en-route in the following manner:
1. Atmospheric Scattering
The process causes rays of sunlight to be redirected to a new direction after hitting a particle in the atmosphere. Scattering does not change the striking light ray’s wavelength or intensity.
This is the process of one thought leading to another. This can either be a thought-process going haywire with distractions, or a sequential process leading to a logical conclusion. Since the light energy retains its properties, the right channelization should not be a difficult proposition. The data scientist works on this principle, reshaping available information into desired formats.
2. Atmospheric Absorption
In this process, sunlight is absorbed by an atmospheric particle, transferred into heat energy, and then converted into longwave radiation emissions that come from the particle.
This is the process of transmission of knowledge. The poet, the scientist, the writer and the philosopher all recreate the world through this process. It is the journey of thought from percept to concept.
3. Atmospheric Reflection
In this process, the solar radiation striking an atmospheric particle is redirected back to space unchanged.
These are the so-called ‘bouncers’ that do not click or stick. Invaluable literature in an alien language can be discarded as junk.
Needless to say that the nature of the recipient particle, and the manner in which it chooses to respond, determines the fate of the solar radiation. We are not shaped by experience, but our reflections on experience.
Knowledge, by itself, is an empty resource. It acquires relevance only with
- An acknowledged need
- Perceived correlation with the need
- The final shape of the product
The Millenials and Gen Z have more than sufficient access to the constant flow of ‘solar radiation’, and they may not need the parents, bosses or traditional gurus to ‘teach’ them. Yet, they do need
- A fundamental value system.
- A framework for their life and learning.
- A Context for their actions.
- Awareness of the difference between needs and wants.
- A priority list.
- An action plan.
Only then, can they utilize the gems of wisdom spread all around, to lead a meaningful life. The thought process needs to be given a direction, so that they absorb and convert the light energy to heat, which will fuel the future.
THE TRANSIENCE OF ORDER
The universe has a presumably unending supply of particles and solar radiation. The nature of both is subject to constant change. Hence, any arrogant claim to decide and reshape the future will be misplaced. We can at best influence the future. Chaos and order will always be interchanging situations, leading to newer species of life.
The remaining energy that reaches the earth is called ‘direct solar radiation’.
And that is enough to keep the thinkers and intellectuals busy for a century.