Information Overload: Get Used to It

September 30, 2020

Modern humans have access to more information than any other generation before them. Better and more access to information is directly proportional to humanity’s technological progress. Scientific American’s article, “Unlimited Information Is Transforming Society” explores the correlation between technology and information.

Scientific and technological progress did not advance in the past as it does today. Any revelation was developed through craft traditions that contributed to humanity’s survival or daily tasks easier. Technology as we know it came about:

“In the late 1800s matters changed: craft traditions were reconstructed as “technology” that bore an important relation to science, and scientists began to take a deeper interest in applying theories to practical problems.”

Technology and science still did not work in tandem for years despite the parallels. For example, aviation was pioneered before scientists understand aeronautical science. The common belief was that machines weighing more than air could not fly.

What advanced science and technology the most in the past 175 years was the manipulation of energy and matter. The movement of energy and matter thus moved information and ideas. The best example of this is electricity, which led to then event of telecommunications devices, familiarly known as televisions, telegraphs, radios, and televisions. Electricity also changed manufacturing (moving factories away from water powered systems) and people’s daily lives from traveling to entertainment.

Computing would be the next big information mover and spreader. Nuclear energy and space travel were predicted to be the next big shake-ups, but the Cold War, a few nuclear meltdowns, and lack of funding for more space-related projects/earthly concerns were a few reasons they did not.

Everything is related (not in a conspiracy related way), but in how one sector of life affects another, such as electricity leading to television’s invention:

“That said, one change that is already underway in the movement of information is the blurring of boundaries between consumers and producers. In the past the flow of information was almost entirely one-way, from the newspaper, radio or television to the reader, listener or viewer. Today that flow is increasingly two-way—which was one of Tim Berners-Lee’s primary goals when he created the World Wide Web in 1990. We “consumers” can reach one another via Skype, Zoom and FaceTime; post information through Instagram, Facebook and Snapchat; and use software to publish our own books, music and videos—without leaving our couches.”

There is more information and access to it and this has also led to a more convenient way of life brought on by technological advances. Technology that also used to be available to a limited number of people, such as computers (remember big old monstrosities that took up entire building floors and processed 30 MB), are in the hands of children. Lines are blurring between the experts and the amateurs, public and private, male and female, etc. What does that mean for the future? One thing we do know is that we cannot predict that.

Whitney Grace, September 30, 2020

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