The Information Tsunami Shows No Sign of Letting Up

If you feel you’re being overwhelmed by information overload in the digital realm, you have lots of company.

A survey conducted last month of ~200 adults who are online “content consumers” found that the largest proportion reports being online essentially their entire waking day. The survey, conducted by content publishing platform company Magnify, was made up of executives, professionals, entrepreneurs and technologists.

It’s a small survey sample to be sure … but who could really argue with the results it uncovered? When asked to what degree they were connected to the Internet, here’s how these respondents answered:

 From the moment I wake up until the moment I go to bed: ~50%
 Most of the workday: ~28%
 9 am to 9 p.m.: ~17%

But here’s the even bigger kicker: A large majority of the respondents reported that the quantity of information being received today had grown by 50% or more compared to last year:

 Information flow has doubled or more since last year: ~26%
 … Has increased by ~75%: ~10%
 … Has increased by ~50%: ~28%
 … Has increased by ~20%: ~25%
 … Has stayed essentially the same: ~11%

How are people dealing with processing the additional information? See how many of these “coping mechanisms” reflect your own actions or behaviors:

 Reading/responding to e-mail on evenings and weekends: ~77%
 Never turning off the mobile phone: ~57%
 Unable to answer all e-mails: ~47%
 Missing important news: ~41%
 Ignoring family and friends: ~40%
 Answering e-mails even while with children: ~35%
 Checking e-mails in the middle of the night: ~33%

The question is: Have we finally reached a critical-mass state where the law of diminishing returns kicks in?

Well, we might have thought that one year ago … before the latest torrential increase in volume happened!

Plunging Headlong into the Next Digital Decade

Looking back over the past ten years, so much has happened in the world of digital communications, it’s almost impossible to remember the “bad old days” of slow-loading web pages and clunky Internet interfaces.

And yet, that was the norm for many web users at the beginning of the decade.

So what’s in store for the upcoming decade? When you consider that a 120-minute movie file can be downloaded about as quickly as a single web page these days, how could data processing and download times get any faster than they are already?

Certainly, if the world continues with transistor-based computer chip designs, there’s very little room for further improvement. That’s because today’s chips continue to be based on the original 1958 Shockley transistor design – except that they contain many more transistors along with circuits that have been engineered smaller and smaller — down practically to the size of an atom.

We can’t get much smaller than that without a radical new design platform. And now, along comes “quantum computing” which goes well beyond the traditional binary system of using ones and zeros in information processing. The betting is that so-called “qubits” – quantum processor units – will become the new design paradigm in the 2010s that will dramatically increase processor speed and power once again.

[An alarming side effect of quantum processing, however, is the possibility that computers will become so much more powerful that current methods of encryption will become obsolete. Clearly, new ways of protecting information will need to be developed along with the new speed and capabilities.]

In tandem with the new advancements in data processing power and speed, industry prognosticators such as Wired magazine’s chief editor Chris Anderson are predicting that bandwidth and storage will become virtually free and unlimited in the coming decade. As a result, it’s highly likely that the decade will be one of much greater collaboration between people in “peer to peer” creation and sharing of information and media, online and in real-time. Think Facebook on steroids.