Every passing generation shapes its own historical significance- wars, cultural revolutions, technologies…. I have come to believe that my generation has heralded the dawn of Infomania. The manic addiction to information.
It’s not our fault, it’s a byproduct of the age in which we live, and nor is it necessarily framed with negativity. Let me tell you a story about the twined fortunes of civilisation and available information.
Are you sitting comfortably?
When humanity first walked the earth, there was very little information readily available to your average member of the genome. Information was just whatever happened to hit your basic sensory input. It got dark and light at regular intervals, you ate certain things and you died, it was sensible to run away from saber-tooth tigers, etc.
Sex must have been awful in those days, but like troopers they kept doing it, and a mind evolved superior to anything that had gone before in terms of reasoning, but no matter how brilliant, that potential will always be limited by the information available to it.
So move forward a few thousand years and the standard of living has risen. There’s houses and communities, basic tools and craftsmanship. Still though, lifestyle is largely dictated by survival. Hunt stuff to live. Procreate to continue. Try not to die from a multitude of incurable diseases. There is little time for leisure, both in terms of life expectancy and hours in the day. Information is at a premium.
Yet still, as languages evolve and communities expand, the standard of living keeps rising. The wisdom of parents is passed on to children, and attainable levels of knowledge expand with each generation.
Then comes a revelation, the written word. Now we can record information in a formalised way and humanity is newly empowered. Learning can supersede word of mouth. Technologies can be developed across continents. This information influx revolutionizes society- factors like transport and industry develop ever more rapidly.
Communities evolve into huge societies, with complex political, cultural and economic structures. The amount of useful information in the world for any given human being, now far exceeds that which would have been useful to their ancestors. Minds grow more sophisticated as they pile up the accumulated information of global generations.
Life is no longer solely dictated by the tenants of survival, which now requires little effort. An industry evolves to fills people’s ever expanding stretches of free time. They start to create more art, entertainment, literature, and these become profitable pursuits- a whole different kind of information.
Of course, the written word’s mobility still gives it a huge advantage in terms of audience, a factor that would dramatically dictate the course of events to come.
Technology is accelerating at an unfathomable rate, and thus information is ever more readily available, each driving the ascent of the other. With print presses, radios, telephones, and TVs, the size of audience for arts and entertainment soar to unprecedented levels. The profitability of information has never been higher.
So what we can surmise so far is this- the human mind demonstrably grows more sophisticated with more information available to it. In this way the availability of information fuels humanity’s progress. The more information that becomes available, the more is generated, thus that progress is bound to constantly accelerate with every passing generation. No longer is a man born into the same world he leaves. Humanity is an unstoppable tornado, fueled by amassing information.
Now finally, the greatest collection of human knowledge ever conceived of is realised- The internet. As Jesus is the son of God, the internet is the divine offspring of information, except the latter actually happened. Google estimates it at over 5 million gigabytes of data. More than you could possibly comprehend even in sheer quantity, instantly available.
Here’s some fun internet facts:
- Facebook has over 6 million hits a minute.
- Over 90 trillion emails were sent last year. 81% of them were spam.
- 80% of images on the internet are of naked women.
- There is more pornography on the internet than any one human being could watch in a lifetime.
- If every amazing fact about the internet was displayed in a list, it would make for a really boring blog post.
But even beyond it’s ultimate manifestation, available information is picking up speed. The next step, as with most technology, was mobility. You can’t carry a computer around after all.
Oh no, now you can. Not only is information endless, it is now constant and effortlessly portable.
I still find myself gazing in awesome wonder at my little, black, shiny thing every now and again. It’s a phone, a map, a game, a book, a computer, a camera…. If you showed that to someone that 100 or 50, or maybe even 20 years ago, they would have shat their pants. Any glimpse of what we might be carrying around in ten years time would probably illicit a similar reaction.
Now it’s just life and most of my generation are wrecks without it. We’re the first batch of humanity to ever really be weaned on this stuff- we barely know anything else. Infomania is in full effect.
It’s not so much a matter of a decreased attention span- bare in mind I once watched an entire season of Arrested Development in one sitting. It’s just that without that constant stimulation, we suffer.
This recent offering from the gloriously offbeat Cyanide and Happiness rang very true:
Scarily apt. We’re monsters, endless tapping away at our laptops and iPhones in our thirst for constant stimulation. Desperate information sluts.
So where does humanity go from here? As information continues to grow, as it inevitably must, to what levels will it propel civilisation?
Well in all probability, we’ll blow ourselves up in the not too distant future, effectively ending that debate. Now that we’ve split the atom, it’s very unlikely it won’t destroy us, all things considered.
But on the off chance we don’t blow ourselves up, which would be wonderful, the next logical step is surely to cut out the device in it’s entirety, and equip our brains to somehow do this all for us.
Imagine being able to access the internet from your mind alone. Googling answers to questions, IM-ing each other across a room, listening to an ipod that plays music in your brain.
In the advances to come, will we end world hunger? Eliminate disease? Perhaps a kind of information superman might develop, capable of cognitive levels beyond our own feeble comprehension. The potential of such a being could redefine humanity as we know it. Sound mental? The truth is whatever does come to pass will probably be equally mind blowing.
With medical technology developing like it is, living another fifty years may well buy you another fifty. Give us another thousand years, there’s no telling what the human race could have become. Infomania- it’s propelling us into a future we can’t imagine fast enough.
Let just try and get there for fuck’s sake.
Posted on March 16, 2012, in Guide, The Life and Times of Tim and tagged civilisation, future, infomania, internet, media generation, rise of humanity, rise of information, story of civilisation, technology. Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.