Losing common sense in the information age

Is common sense that common any more?

Common sense is a term that is bandied around in all walks of life. In business, it implies sound and prudent judgment and, indeed, this is the usual dictionary definition.

The term is ancient and the original definition is bound with the five senses: we see, touch, feel, hear and taste things and form an opinion on them accordingly.

In short, we experience something and learn from it. The commonality comes from other people experiencing the same thing and sharing their interpretation.

Sharing information is just communication - as humans, we do this in three ways. The most basic is body language and we all have an innate perception of what others' displays mean. It can be confused by culture - raising your middle finger means different things in different cultures. Body language also includes general conduct, such as timekeeping, dress and cleanliness.

Advanced forms of communication are speaking and listening, and writing and reading.

Verbal communication used to require physical proximity, but is now often remote via phone or screen.

Written communication is almost always remote, so we cannot see the writer and, therefore, cannot make a judgment on them with our five senses.

We do make judgments, of course, but they are based on pictures we put in our heads and tones that we apply to the language we are reading.

Writing started on paper (or parchment or stone, if you want to be pedantic), but is now most frequently accessed on screen.

It is dominated by the Internet and includes things like e-mail, messaging systems (such as SMS and Twitter) and, for business, databases of what the leaders think is relevant to their employees.

The written word allows us to learn about every idea had by anyone under the sun. I cannot remember who said it, but a good definition of our age is that there are no new ideas to be had, only the application of existing ones.

Fine. This all sounds good - we can access information on any subject, anywhere, and apply it to our own lives and to situations at work. But, hang on, does the information we receive lead to the application of common sense?

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