Three cheers for overstimulation

I was driving in my car, listening to music today. And because it was some weird folk crap, I was thinking about how different music must have been back in the eras these musicians were riffing off of.

Music, unless one was a musician oneself, must have always been a communal activity. The notion of being listening to music by yourself would have been impossibly alien, not to mention impossible. Furthermore, you’d hear like one style of music, which would be whatever was prevalent wherever you were from. And most of it would be pretty bad. All music would be equivalent to the idiot in the dorm room across from you strumming on his guitar, rather than only listening to the cream of the crop, who’ve been skillfully packed into portable, recorded form.

Wow, we have more access to information than people in the past, I know, that’s hardly profound. But I wonder how constant access to an infinite variety of entertainments affects our life, qualitatively. Are we happier than those people in the past were? Is the quality of our thinking superior? Are we able to appreciate the world to a greater or more refined degree? What would it be like to be as profoundly ignorant as those people would have been?

I guess its tempting to just compare ourselves to people in impoverished nations (or our own nation) who lack many of our amenities, but I don’t think the case is the same. Those people are at least aware of what is out there. Also, even the most impoverished people in the world occassionally listen to a radio (unless they’re Sentinel islanders).