Alvin Toffler sounded the first early warning more than 30 years ago. In his trailblazing book, Future Shock (Random House, 1971), Toffler theorized that the human brain has finite limits on how much information it can absorb and process. Exceed that limit and the brain becomes overloaded, thinking and reasoning become dulled, decision-making flawed and, in some cases, impossible. Even worse, he suggested, information overload will eventually lead to widespread physical and mental disturbances. He called this phenomenon “future shock syndrome.” (more…)
Information, the very thing that makes it possible to be an engineer, a doctor, a lawyer, or any other kind of modern information worker, is threatening our ability to do our work. How’s that for irony? The global economy may run on countless streams, waves, and pools of information, but unrestrained, that tidal wave of data is drowning us. It washes away our productivity and creativity, swamps our social lives, and can even shipwreck our relationships.
That’s because we live in the information age – and the stuff that risks doing the damage is information itself. As certain scientists and philosophers see it, the discovery and dissemination of knowledge is far from being an unqualified boon. We might be in danger of knowing too much. “Information can potentially be extremely dangerous,” says philosopher Nick Bostrom, director of the Future of Humanity Institute at the University of Oxford. “The effects arising from knowledge can be momentous.”
The Economist’s Special Report on Managing Information
CIO Jeff Saper drives a hybrid car, favors service providers that use alternative energy and has launched many green IT initiatives at his strategic communications firm, Robinson Lerer & Montgomery LLC in New York. But he’s also concerned about a type of pollution that even Al Gore has yet to tackle: digital pollution.
The recent growth of information sources such as blogs, social networks, news aggregators, microblogs like Twitter, instant messaging and e-mail has been exponential. And with broadband penetration among active Internet users expected to break 90% this year, according to Internet marketing firm Website Optimization LLC, there aren’t many people today who haven’t experienced some form of information overload.
We all have our routines for getting our daily doses of information. We check our e-mail for messages and newsletters. We visit our favorite Web sites. We tune in to electronic discussion groups. We might read a couple of newspapers. Then the snail mail hits the office, bringing magazines, brochures, advance sheets and a host of other information sources. And all of it is overwhelming.
“Information overload” is no longer a catchphrase. It has become an illness that leaves us feeling engulfed and falling farther behind with each new day. (more…)
There is real value in having data, but only if it’s organized. It’s that simple. I love having a big garage, but it doesn’t help if I can’t find the tool I’m looking for and I have to go to Home Depot and buy the same thing again. It’s the same with data. Over the next four years, we’re going to have 10 times more information. CIOs will be struggling to get value out of it.
I gave a presentation this week on decision-making, and someone in the audience asked me if I thought information overload was an impediment to effective decision-making. “Information overload…yes, I remember that concept. But no one cares about it anymore,” I replied. In fact, nobody ever did.
But why not? We’ve been reading articles in the press about information overload being the bane of productivity for almost twenty years
The subject line grabbed my attention-“Information Overload: The Impact on the Organization.”
The thought of spending time listening to the webcast was itself pressure. But I was feeling particularly overloaded that day, so I registered for the free event from the nonprofit group calling itself the Information Overload Research Group (IORG; https://iorgforum.org). A key company in the organization is Basex, Inc. (www.basex.com), which describes itself as a “knowledge economy research firm” that serves IT vendors and buyers with an expertise in knowledge worker management and productivity. Here’s the compelling statistic: Basex estimates, based on data it has gathered, that information overload costs the U.S. economy a minimum of $900 billion a year in lost productivity and reduced innovation. That’s a big number.
Your data is multiplying, your channels are extending, the chatter is never-ending. You’re already having trouble keeping up with the stream of information. What happens when that stream becomes a flood?
Relaxation is a whole lot more intense than it used to be. I realized this one recent lazy Sunday afternoon: Before assuming my position on the couch, I gathered the television remote control, my smartphone, a print magazine, and my laptop. Apparently this form of multitasking isn’t all that uncommon.