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.”Back then, all this sounded like a dose of science fiction, but some of today’s scientists and researchers say that Toffler was right. They tell us that information overload can indeed cause stress build-up and short-circuits in the central nervous system. That, in turn, can bring on harmful mental and physical changes. Internationally known British psychologist, David Lewis, Ph.D., goes further. He says, “I do think there are people out there who are dying because they’re getting too much information and they don’t know how to handle it.
“Americans are being overwhelmed with information. Each new day introduces an unrelenting flow of data — TV news, the Internet, e-mail, voicemail, faxes, cell phones, pagers, billboards, junk mail, newspapers, magazines, books, catalogs, nonstop cable news. It never lets up and there’s no place to hide. It assaults us at home, at work, even at play. By one estimate, a single issue of the New York Times contains more information than the average 17th-century person would come across in an entire lifetime.