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The age of too much information

If you are under 40 years old you have lived your entire life in the Information Age or what some call the Age of Information. The Information Age started in about 1970. The period has also been called the Computer Age, the Information Era and the Digital Revolution. It has been during this period that we shifted from an industrial economy to a service economy. The era has been characterized by computer microminiaturization, the internet, cell phones, digital music, high definition TV, digital cameras and hand held gadgets of every sort and description, all becoming obsolete before your next birthday. We are all still in the Age of Information today, only I call it "the age of too much information."

I would like my entire medical record (but nothing else) on a chip, provided some insurance company wouldn't use it against me claiming a pre-existing condition as a reason for not covering my next emergency. But while my medical record is not on a chip, just about everything else is.

I have only one credit card and those folks can -- and have -- profiled my spending habits for the last 10 or more years. They know more about my spending habits than I do. They have enough information to be selling it to anybody who wants to sell me something or get me to carry another credit card -- and I think they have.

My charitable habits are well known too. If I sent $10 to Save the Whales (is there one?) I'll get solicitations from a dozen other fish, ocean, marine and environmental organizations. That's because the whales people will gladly sell a list of names, mine included, to the other guys in the same business.

There is a record of all my e-mails, all my online purchases, my computer research, my phone calls, my bill paying and delinquency record and just about everything else except my private thoughts (even my private thoughts are recorded when I put them in this column -- but I can't blame anybody for that) and I'm too far behind the technology curve to do anything about it -- if anybody can. There is even a video record of me every time I enter a bank, grocery store, gas station or almost any other business.

In an age of diminishing privacy, folks choose to expose their faces, addresses, phone numbers and lives on Craigslist, MySpace, Facebook and reality TV in hopes of social connections or fame. Are we closer to one another by texting, twittering, sexting and cell phoning every minute while walking, working and driving or have we become a society of zombies with little keyboards? Is face-to-face communication obsolete?

Another question: Is it fair, responsible or ethical use of all of these marvelous instruments of technology and communication to vent our hate to ridicule and defame others on-line under cover of anonymity? There is a ton of vicious stuff being aired out there by cowards who don't have to and won't reveal their names.

One more category of too much information: Computers have broken baseball statistics down to the level of meaningless trivia. For example, for me to be told that 96 percent of teams behind by five or more runs in the ninth inning lose the game is a waste of time and an irritation. And while I want to know Joe Mauer's batting average, I don't want or need to know his average with a runner on second in the eighth inning with one out in an out of town ball game. Forget it. I love baseball, but turn off the computer (sometimes I turn off the sound and just enjoy watching baseball on TV) and let me draw my own conclusions.

I know what you're thinking -- "Now there's a theme for Grumpy Old Men III."