Too much information running through my brain
Too much information driving me insane
~Police, Too Much Information.
Yesterday, Seth Godin wrote a post in his blog called, Warning: The Internet is almost full. It's not of course, and he had is his tongue planted firmly in his cheek, but he brought up the very serious idea of information overload.
It's hard not to feel it--there is just so much going on online, so much to see, so many people to connect with, so many blogs to read and comment on. Then there's Twitter and Facebook and LinkedIn (oh my!), not to mention the never-ending avalanche of content including articles, video and pictures. It's by turns wonderful and terrifying because we know it's out there for us, but how we can we ever keep up with it?
It's All There
At the same time we are feeling bombarded, there's something incredible, empowering even magical, about having access to all that content, even if it's hard to stay focused and to keep on top of it. It's comforting somehow just knowing it's there, realizing that you can enter a simple set of keywords into Google and access information about just about anything you can imagine any time you want.
In a recent video, Google CEO Eric Schmidt addressing The New America Foundation, discussed the wonder of having all of this information available to us and put it into context. "One Hundred years ago," he said "people had access to almost no information." Today, he explained, with the internet, we have access to incredible amounts of information all within reach of our computer screens and mobile devices.
Schmidt went on to say that within our lifetimes, "almost all people will have to access to almost all of the world's information." Think about that for a moment. He says, and he's right, that this is a remarkable achievement, but it's not just the elite--those of us who are blogging and twittering and meeting on Facebook who will be able to access it. He says within the next several years, this information will be in reach of another billion people worldwide via mobile phones.
Overcoming the Paradox
So we have this paradox of information online. There is a sense as Godin pointed out so well that we are reaching the functional limit of our brains to process all of the information. Yet we have the exciting promise of having all of this information available to us as Schmidt explained.
The question becomes how do we process it, filter it and find the best of the best? How can our online social networks help us help each other find the best content? There are surely worse problems to have than an embarrassment of riches, but it's all grown around us so fast and we are still figuring out how it works, learning as we go. Yet if information is empowering, then the power is right here in our hands and it's amazing. I'm confident we'll figure out how to deal with it.