Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Malthusian information famine

A view of our information future from Charles Seife:
...Vast amounts of digital memory will change the relationship that humans have with information....For the first time, we as a species have the ability to remember everything that ever happens to us. For millennia, we were starving for information to act as raw material for ideas. Now, we are about to have a surfeit.

Alas, there will be famine in the midst of all that plenty. There are some hundred million blogs, and the number is roughly doubling every year. The vast majority are unreadable. Several hundred billion e-mail messages are sent every day; most of it—current estimates run around 70%—is spam. There seems to be a Malthusian principle at work: information grows exponentially, but useful information grows only linearly. Noise will drown out signal. The moment that we, as a species, finally have the memory to store our every thought, etch our every experience into a digital medium, it will be hard to avoid slipping into a Borgesian nightmare where we are engulfed by our own mental refuse.

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