Tags: Health Topics | conversation | convictions | tolerance

Will Information Overload End Debate and Learning?

Will Information Overload End Debate and Learning?
(Katharina Wittfeld/Dreamstime) 

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Monday, 02 October 2017 03:47 PM Current | Bio | Archive

This article is the first in a series. 

Indeed, modern Western society has gone on the “Information Super-Highway," a term coined in the 1990’s, associated with former Vice President Al Gore. In 2010 Eric Schmidt, then CEO of Google, now Executive Chairman of Alphabet, Inc. famously made the claim that every two days, mankind creates as much information as was created from the dawn of civilization up until 2003. Whether his claim can be proven scientifically or not — it does not change the core message: we are facing an unprecedented revolution revolving around the consumption, production and distribution of information. Scientists refer to it as the "Age of Information."

Even though the evolution and aggregation of information spread out over thousands of years, it seems that nothing prepared us for the all-you-can-eat information buffet which is now being served. The world is over-saturated with information and with means to shape, edit, create — and recreate it. Every day, the Internet produces an incomprehensible volume of new information. The barrage of information is endless and rapidly growing.

Users are no longer merely passive consumers of content, but rather creators and reproducers of content. "Prosumers," if you will. The numbers are almost unfathomable: in one second, 7,700 tweets are sent into the Twittersphere, 796 Instagram photos are uploaded, 1,272 Tumblr blog posts are uploaded and 2,613,436 emails are sent. This is all user generated content. "The world's technological capacity to store information grew at a sustained compound annual growth rate of 25% between 1986 and 2007," according to Hilbert, M.; Lopez, P. (2011), in "The World's Technological Capacity to Store, Communicate, and Compute Information," (Science. 332 (6025): 60–5. PMID 21310967. doi:10.1126/science.1200970.)

The barriers of engagement and access to information in our networked era are considerably low. Every second, there are 61,850 Google searches. There are over 6 billion Google searches a day, and almost 20 percent of queries are "fresh" and have never been asked before.

Today, more than half of the world’s population has an internet connection. In many areas, smartphones are more prevalent than running water or basic sanitary systems, and by 2021 more people around the world will have smartphones than running water. Moreover, with the 5G revolution still ahead, every smart phone will soon be able to provide information at a pace 20 times faster than today’s fastest Wi-Fi.

How will this unprecedented era impact our political conversation, opinion formation, and ability of persuasion?

Largely, there are two approaches: one, contends that massive exposure to new information will trigger human curiosity, desire to learn and, ultimately, expand people’s horizons, enhance tolerance and understanding of the "other."

The other approach contends the opposite. When humans are exposed to new information, unfamiliar or even contradictory, they tend to be overwhelmed and intimidated by it. The situation further accelerates their resignation from the new and, at times, unsettling conversation. Often, they seek to further reinforce their pre-existing convictions.

Ambassador Ido Aharoni serves as a global distinguished professor at New York University’s School of International Relations in the Faculty of Arts and Sciences. Ambassador Aharoni is a 25-year veteran of Israel’s Foreign service, a public diplomacy specialist, founder of the Brand Israel program and a well-known nation branding practitioner. He is the founder of Emerson Rigby Ltd., an Israel-based consultancy firm specializing in non-product branding and positioning. Ambassador Aharoni, who served as Israel's longest serving consul-general in New York and the tristate area for six years, oversaw the operations of Israel’s largest diplomatic mission worldwide. Ambassador Aharoni joined Israel’s Foreign Service in the summer of 1991 and held two other overseas positions in Los Angeles (1994-1998) and in New York (2001-2005). He is a graduate of Tel Aviv University (Film, TV, Sociology and Social Anthropology) and Emerson College (Master’s in Mass Communications and Media Studies). At the Hebrew University in Jerusalem he attended the special Foreign Service program in Government and Diplomacy. To reach more of his reports — Click Here Now.

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When humans are exposed to new information, unfamiliar or even contradictory, they tend to be overwhelmed and intimidated. The situation further accelerates their resignation from new conversation. Often, they seek to further reinforce their pre-existing convictions.
conversation, convictions, tolerance
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Monday, 02 October 2017 03:47 PM
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