In the Information Age, People Will Not be Better Informed — They Will be Differently Informed

One of my favorite stories from my father’s work experiences is also a very simple one. It comes from a job he had at J.P. Stevens — which only lasted a year or two (I think) in the early 70s. One day early on — when he was just starting, he was in the CEO’s office (I think, I’m just telling it from vague memory) and the CEO was proudly saying how much data they had (I think just as someone was rolling stacks of printouts). My father asked what they were doing with the information and they said “nothing”. That’s it — if you’re not laughing, then you missed the punch line. At any rate, that’s when my father got to work.

This little tale is also somewhat representative of information now, and in the future, too.

We have a lot of information already. There is more information available than we will ever be able to digest — and so we actually neglect most of it. But there was indeed something new about those stacks of printouts: that was proprietary information. Of course there has been proprietary information before, too — but it was never quite so easy to amass so much of it.

In previous centuries, there were people designated to keep track of history. They would pay attention to whatever bits and pieces they thought were significant and create a story out of them. And then the historians would simply tell their stories.

Today, this has changed. Everyone has a camera, some way of jotting down texts, an audio recorder and many other devices, too. Also, more and more households have more and more data storage capacity — almost anyone could probably store all of the texts in the Library of Congress for less than the cost of TV set.

Soon, each and every person will be able to store far more information than they will ever be able to digest in a lifetime. For the time being, most information is still being created by the government and various “media industries”, but that has already started to change. The “Collateral Murder” video is just one example of this… — and it’s also an example of how some governments still seem to think that they can “control” information.

As long as most people still pay attention to retard media websites like Google and Facebook, this government-control-of-the-media myth will continue for some time yet, but at some point, there will be so much information storage capacity that people might be able to replicate large portions of “all information” — at least the information that is publicly available.

It will be too much information, many times over.

What will happen as a result of this trend is this: People will increasingly pay attention to information that is most proximate to the current moment, at their current location. Increasingly people will neglect what happened 1 or 2 centuries ago — not because they couldn’t, but rather because it will no longer seem relevant. For example: Without gasoline, who will care about how to build a gasoline engine? Likewise: What is the significance of some insect that was once on the Earth, but is now extinct?

Instead, people will want to know which stream or well the glass of water they are drinking right now came from. They will want to know the temperatures in each room indoors, out on the patio and also in the back yard. They will have access to each and every word their mother or father ever wrote — whether to them personally or in the public sphere.

The government monopoly on statistical data will end. People will share temperature data, opinions, ideas, … and they will not only share them, they will also store them. Entire databases will be exchanged from one side of the globe to the other in a fraction of a second.

But everywhere there will be a focus on what is relevant here, and what is relevant now. The distant past will become ever more irrelevant. Perhaps the persons we will never meet may also become more irrelevant — and that’s many billions of people!

No one will know the same thing as anyone else. Everybody’s view of the world will be different. There will no longer be printed dictionaries. If you want to know the meaning of “life” or “trousers”, you will simply visit the “life” website or the “trousers” website and see what it says there.

At any rate, just like today: The vast majority of information available will simply be neglected.

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