How did we end up with a scarcity of time and an abundance of information?

scarcity of time and an abundance of information

A lot’s changed in the last two hundred years.  We’ve gone from a situation where people had a real scarcity of information and an abundance of time, to the reverse scenario: a scarcity of time and an abundance of information.

Let’s compare a few of the communication systems that people used in the 1800s with those more commonly used today.

scarcity of time and an abundance of information
1817 2017
Semaphore 
This technology revolutionised the world and was pivotal in Napoleon’s success at Waterloo.  Records suggest messages delivered at a rate of 192km/hr (provided there was a semaphore tower available).
Smartphones
Estimates say there are between seven and nine billion mobile phones in use around the globe.  As a result, every ninth person owns two!
Carrier pigeons
Carrier pigeons were the Twitter of 1817 and delivered messages faster than almost any other method.  They also had an average speed of 150km/hour and were used to announce the outcome of the Battle of Waterloo.  There was also a character limit!
Social media
Each year we Tweet 20 billion times, share 950 billion things on Facebook, and upload around 10 million hours of video to YouTube.
Pony express
With a speed of 120/km a day, this wasn’t the fastest method of communication, but ponies could carry much more than a pigeon. This service was most popular in the US and renowned for delivering news at all costs.
Registered post
With the advent of RFID and GPS technology, it’s now possible for important parcels and letters to be tracked – by both the sender and the recipient – at every step of their journey.
Town crier
For all the latest news around town, this guy was the go-to man. With one town crier recorded at 114Db, these booming orators were undoubtedly the primary source of information for the general public, most of whom couldn’t read or write.
TV
Traditional TV viewing patterns are changing, but the television is still the way millions of households around the globe consume information.
Telegraph
The electronic telegraph was an emerging technology, only released in 1815.  It took off, though, and quickly replaced the semaphore as the prime method of rapid communication.
Email
We send approximately 110,000,000,000,000 (or 110 trillion) emails every year. That’s an average of three million emails every second, 90% of which probably end up in the spam folder.
Newspapers
The 1800s saw a surge in newspapers established around the globe. The US, therefore, experienced a 3,800% increase in the number of newspapers published each week.
Newspapers
Sources say newspaper circulation sits between 800 million and one billion daily, and this number is much lower than when newspapers were at their peak, pre-internet.
Libraries
Libraries were a new thing in 1817, and most were still privately owned and accessible only to members. There were a few public libraries that housed the 2.4 million books of the world, but literacy rates were just 40-50%, so availability didn’t directly translate to accessibility.
Libraries
About 130 million books have been written and published since the dawn of civilisation. In the past 200 years, we have seen a massive 98% of those books written. However, libraries are discovering complimentary services, and several digital items are now available for borrowing.
Letters
Letters were a fundamental communication method in 1817, but speed was never guaranteed.  Estimates suggest they sent around 30 million letters in that year.
Letters
Posting letters is a dying communication method, yet we still make good use of it.  Last year we posted more than 140 billion items to each other.  They certainly weren’t all Christmas cards, were they?
Theatre
In 1817, live stage shows played a key role in entertaining people, as well as helping them form their views about the world.  And here’s an interesting fact: it wasn’t until 1817 that we saw the introduction of gas lighting into British theatre for the first time.
Streaming content
We watch around 50 billion hours of streaming content from services like Netflix, Stan, as well as Google Play, and Orange is the New Black raked in 23 million viewers globally.

Technology has undoubtedly made life easier and much more fast paced. However, it’s also delivered a very modern dilemma: how can we possibly consume all the information that surrounds us?

Read up on why the earth was plunged into darkness 200 years ago.

This is where an understanding of data is crucial. With the right tools, both individuals and businesses can effectively segment, sort, and filter all the information they receive – meaning they only receive insights that are specifically relevant and interesting to them.  Plus, with advances in machine learning, the notion of relevance can also even update over time based on an individual or organisation’s consumption patterns.

Are you looking to use data to overcome information overload in your business?

If so, talk to our expert team and find out how we can help:

Alternatively, call us on +61 2 9238 6897 or visit www.syntagium.com.au.

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