How to cope in a world that's gone beyond information overload


Date: 23 October 2013

How to cope in a world that's gone beyond information overload/yoga meditation{{}}Americans consumed about 3.6 zettabytes of information in 2008. You can bet the UK isn’t far behind.

That’s an enormous volume of information: the difference between 0.3 and 3.6 zettabytes is ten times the number of grains of sand on the earth.

This volume of information is apparent every day, in our bulging inboxes, our enormous choice of TV channels and an endless list of results on Google.

It’s no longer information overload. It’s filter failure.

Chaos on the information superhighway

There is chaos on the information superhighway. We can't see the wood from the trees. Facts do not exist any more, because every fact has an anti-fact on the web.

We create our own belief bubbles, our brains are mush and we are driven by what the smart phone tells us. It’s a cocktail for disaster. Or is it?

There’s nothing to worry about

In Smarter than you think: how technology is changing our minds for the better, author Clive Thompson talks about how technology and the internet makes us smarter and better.

His argument is convincing. Technology provides eternal memory, where we can recall anything and learn from it. And it creates cognitive diversity, providing a place to test, discuss and distribute our thinking with all knowledge at our fingertips.

Technology has also made us more literate. We are writing and reading more than ever with texts, emails, tweets and so on, but tech is also creating different types of literacy.

With video, images, data and — soon — 3D printing, the internet and technology is giving us more rich ways to express ourselves.

Constant distractions

If you put it that way, it is difficult to argue. However, Thompson does make reference to the fear of missing out (FOMO) syndrome, the dangers of constant distraction and the need to be mindful and aware of how you think.

And that brings me to Daniel Kahneman’s Thinking, fast and slow. His advice? Regularly step out of this stream of digital information. Take time to slow down. Meditate. Relax.

Kahneman thinks that, in future, we may all benefit from our own digital assistants. He cites Watson, the supercomputer that can play guess-the-question quiz show Jeopardy.

The technology behind Watson is now being used to help doctors diagnose patients based on the answers they give.

In five years, you could have Watson on your phone. It will be your digital, ambient, super-smart digital assistant who can help with your memory, knowledge, thinking and a lot more.

And what will happen then? Well, once you have a powerful new tool for finding answers, you can think of harder problems to solve.

Ron Immink is CEO of Book Buzz and a contributor to Small Business Can.


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