Skip to content

75 years to four minutes

September 14, 2009

[The Globe and Mail] Twenty-eight years ago, psychologist and computer scientist Herbert Simon observed that the most fundamental consequence of the superabundance of information created by the digital revolution was a corresponding scarcity of attention. In becoming information-rich, we have become attention-poor.

The three technologies that have powered the information revolution – computation, data transmission and data storage – have each increased in capability (and declined in cost per unit of capability) by about 10 million times since the early 1960s. It is as if a house that cost half a million dollars in 1964 could be bought today for a nickel, or if life expectancy had been reduced from 75 years to four minutes.

This has unleashed a torrential abundance of data and information. But economics teaches that the counterpart of every new abundance is a new scarcity – in this case, the scarcity of human time and attention. The cost of one’s time (approximated, for example, by the average wage) relative to the cost of data manipulation, transmission and storage has increased roughly 10-million-fold in just over two generations – a change in relative “prices” utterly without precedent. This, above all, is what is driving the evolution of online behaviour and culture, with profound implications for the production and consumption of knowledge. The primary consequence is the growing emphasis on speed at the expense of depth. (read)

Advertisements
No comments yet

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: