Experience Versus Information
I am reading David McCullough‘s The Great Bridge, about the building of the Brooklyn Bridge. (Yes, I like McCullough very much.) In a passage about the fundamental differences between Brooklyn and New York (i.e., Manhattan), McCullough writes:
People then were still inclined to form opinions more from experience than information and it was the experience of most Brooklyn people that between their city and the other one, there was no comparison.
The time he is writing about is the late 1860’s. The observation that fascinates me is that “people then were still inclined to form opinions more from experience than information.” This strikes me as both a) true and b) profound, though I am willing to be argued out of either one. It also makes me wonder further:
1. In the modern age, do we primarily treat information as a substitute for experience?
2. If so, do the benefits outweigh the losses?
3. If McCullough is right, doesn’t it make bad information that much more dangerous?
4. If McCullough is right, might we approach a point where information distrust and overload encourage people to return to experiential wisdom?