Saturday, August 22, 2009

The Speed of Thinking

The speed of communications in the post-modern world continues to accelerate exponentially. Yet, the speed at which the human mind can absorb and process information has changed little. As a result, society has become "queasy" from high volumes of data, and just as humans slow down when nauseated, society’s spirit might also be in abatement under the bombardment of information.

According to Mr John Freeman (2009, “Not So Fast,” WSJ, Aug 21, 2009):

Speed used to convey urgency; now we somehow think it means efficiency.... There is a paradox here, though. The Internet has provided us with an almost unlimited amount of information, but the speed at which it works—and we work through it—has deprived us of its benefits. We might work at a higher rate, but this is not work­ing. We can store a limited amount of information in our brains and have it at our disposal at any one time. Making decisions in this communication brownout, though without complete infor­mation, we go to war hastily, go to meetings unprepared, and build relationships on the slippery gravel of false impressions. Attention is one of the most valuable modern resources. If we waste it on frivolous communication, we will have nothing left when we really need it.

As communications speed up, so can “brain overload.” This begs the question of just how fast communications should go. Perhaps the speed of thinking could provide a useful governor.

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