Wednesday, May 9, 2012

The Cost of Information

To use a cliche, the world is changing rapidly. Really rapidly.

Or put another way, the granularity, detail and depth of information that we have about the world has expanded manifold, creating the perception of rapid change.

I don't know if it's just me, but the cornucopia of data, news and soundbytes with which we can bombard ourselves these days is mind-numbingly enormous. Some big changes, and several smaller ones, in the wide realm of technology, have enabled this. Gadgets, websites, software - you name it. 

Our methods of seeking and sharing information are increasingly customized, push-driven and self-reinforcing. The modern juxtaposition of technology and information allows us to freeze our preferences, prejudices and judgmental shortcuts with alarming rapidity.

Our reliance on systems has increased to levels where slight deviations from our routine (or the expected path) cause us severe heartburn.

At the same time, too much information is being churned out, much of it increasingly useless. Information, at such levels of accumulation, seems to have negative returns to scale.

Additional information crowds out the mind without adding anything of value to comprehension, enjoyment or decision-making. More information actually impairs them, affecting judgement and making us feel helpless.

Worse, prioritizing the flow of information itself becomes a challenge. 

The mind seems to have reached its natural limit in its ability to process, retain and make sense of information. The analytical reasoner is bound to wear himself out, trying to comprehend all of it.

We are in the age of the information treadmill, running just to stay in the same place. The pace of information flow leaves no time to stand still; Comprehending and understanding it takes up all of our time & energy. And unless we learn to actively cut down on our information consumption, we shall continue to be slaves to the flow.

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