The New Problems of the Information Age

Living in the Information Era, we are used to the digital cameras, smart phones, and personal computers. But it is still hard to believe that Vannevar Bush, the author of  “As We May Think”, has already precisely predicted many technological innovations we have today in 1945. He suggested that people should create devices that improved human’s mental abilities now instead of physical abilities. Then he presented the “Memex” as a personal library that was easy to store and find information – exactly what computers and World Wide Web can do for us. However, new problems have arisen.

How to efficiently obtain the information we need?  Due to the information explosion, when you google a specific topic, social media overload, for instance, 1,500,000 results pop up. People in 1945 lack a convenient way to search data and we solved this problem with Internet.But now the new problem is how to filter a large amount of information to get what we need.

How to avoid the distractions of entertainment? Bush presented the “Memex” as a device that could expand human memory and increase intelligence. Nowadays, of 7.5 billion world population, 3.7 billion of them are Internet users (Worldometers, 2017), suggesting that approximately 49.3% people already have some sort of “Memex”. However, most of our online time on the “Memex” is spent on entertainment instead of gaining knowledge. Social Media Today’s statistics show that we spend more time on social media than on eating, drinking, socializing, and grooming (Asano, 2017). Social media along with other online entertainment have been distracting us from utilizing the Internet in a productive way.

How to identify false information? Bush also had an idea about a digital encyclopedia on which everyone could add new information. We now have Wikipedia that perfectly achieved Bush’s expectation, however, the entries have been maliciously tampered from time to time. In addition, according to a BuzzFeed analysis, 38% ring-wing Facebook posts and 20% left-wing posts are false and misleading (Silverman et al., 2016). As an ordinary netizen, distinguishing true information from the false is undoubtedly difficult.

With the development of technology, we solved the problems of storing, searching and sharing information, which people in 1945 cannot solve. Similarly, the solutions to these new arising problems may also be technology innovations – a more powerful information filter system, an application that blocks all sort of entertainment while working and a new informative censoring mechanism.

 

 

References

Asano, E. (2017). How Much Time Do People Spend on Social Media? [Infographic]. [online] Social Media Today. Available at: http://www.socialmediatoday.com/marketing/how-much-time-do-people-spend-social-media-infographic [Accessed 13 Sep. 2017].

Bush, V. (1945). As We May Think. [online] The Atlantic. Available at: https://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/1945/07/as-we-may-think/303881/ [Accessed 12 Sep. 2017].

Silverman, C., Strapagiel, L., Shaban, H., Hall, E. and Singer-Vine, J. (2016). Hyperpartisan Facebook Pages Are Publishing False And Misleading Information At An Alarming Rate. [online] BuzzFeed. Available at: https://www.buzzfeed.com/craigsilverman/partisan-fb-pages-analysis?utm_term=.diZX5VnZb#.jpyJqRM0Q [Accessed 13 Sep. 2017].

Worldometers. (2017). Worldometers – real time world statistics. [online] Available at: http://www.worldometers.info/ [Accessed 13 Sep. 2017].

 

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