At the library where I work, I was telling a colleague about Google’s “agoogleaday” trivia game. The random question for the day, for which Google provides a modified version of its search engine, was a sentence full of obscure medical terms. My colleague was immediately discouraged by the jargon, and I hinted offhand, “You don’t need to know what the question means to find the answer.”
I wouldn’t have realized what a strange thing that is to say had I not just finished a book by James Gleick titled “The Information,” a history about how we think about and handle information. A lot of this book, especially toward the end, talks about information stripped of meaning (with abstract math) in the process of being transformed into something universally quantifiable, and the knee-jerk reactions against such deflowering. (And the current effort to bring meaning back, e.g. the Semantic Web.)
At the time, it felt like my offhand comment about agoogleaday was more intellectually fraudulent than strange. I might have actually looked around, worried that some of the high schoolers pounding away at their keyboards heard me essentially lend authority to the CliffNotes approach.
In Gleick’s book, there’s also a fair amount of math jargon thrown in, which I’m normally wont to skim, so long as I get the gist of it.