Are We Heading for Information Overload?

by Matt Klassen on June 17, 2014

As devices, platforms, and online access continue to proliferate questions have been raised regarding whether or not human beings are actually designed to process the unabated torrent of information that is now delivered to us on a daily basis; that is, if we’re ready, willing, and, indeed, able to handle the unending data stream from smartphones, tablets, glasses, watches, not to mention from the ever-growing Internet of Things as well.

There exists the assumption; one fuelled no doubt by the tech industry itself, that more powerful devices, more data, and more connectivity are all intrinsically good, the epitome of advancement and the embodiment of progress. But this week at HP’s Discover Conference, several tech industry leaders took a moment to truly ponder this conundrum, offering some acknowledgement that more data and constant connectivity aren’t necessarily good things for the human race.

In a rare turn towards the philosophical, Hewlett-Packard CEO Meg Whitman, Intel CEO Brian Krzanich, and Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella where confronted with this question, and despite the fact that their respective firms all have a large stake in the continued proliferation of computing technology, there seemed to be some consensus that more data from more devices isn’t the ultimate goal…or at least it shouldn’t be.

As we’ve mentioned here before, the one thing lacking in this age of rapidly advancing technology is an undergirding philosophy of technology, one that works to provide boundaries for advancement, defines the idea of “progress,” and dictates a potential end goal for such development, as opposed to the current idea of progress for the sake of progress.

For as we’ve seen already, without such a philosophical framework technological progress becomes disconnected from its true purpose as a tool of the human race, with, as HP’s Whitman noted at the conference, “cloud computing, the Internet of Things, mobile networks, machine to machine computing” threaten to bury the human race under unfathomable and unmanageable amounts of data.

“I wonder if we’re wired for this?” Whitman admitted candidly. “[If] the human brain and our emotional state can actually sustain this? I feel a lot more stressed than I did 10 years ago because I’m always on. I wake up in the middle of the night, reach over for my phone, and I check my email. This is probably not a good thing.”

The reality for these companies, however, is that they’re not just data peddlers, they’re solution providers as well, meaning the amount of data that’s generated and how it’s delivered to the end user are both problems the tech industry is still trying to figure out.

“[If] it’s cumbersome or difficult for you to get the data…to understand how it operates, then that is not adding to your life but actually is a burden. It’s a problem we have to solve but I don’t think we’re all great at it yet,” Krzanich said, with Microsoft’s Nadella adding that “In it’s current form, [data] is inundating.”

So where does that leave us? Despite the admission that we are currently buried under an unfathomably large pile of data, the CEOs admitted that this doesn’t necessarily mean human beings are out of place in the digital age, just that we require, wait for it, more advancements in technology to help us process everything our current technology is sending our way. “[We have to] make it a more personal experience. If [the devices and software are] smooth and seamless, you’ll appreciate them,” Krzanich said.

While such a conclusion may not provide the human race with a workable philosophy of technology, make no mistake that it clearly elucidates the philosophy of the tech industry itself: continue convincing people that more data, more devices, and, in an effort to manage it all for us, more artificially intelligent control are good for the human race, progress for progress’s sake. Whether or not such advancements are actually good for the human race, however, well that’s another story entirely.

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Written by: Matt Klassen. Follow by: RSS, Twitter, Facebook, or YouTube.

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