Friday, 15 March 2013

Can we handle all that Information?

dolly overload
My first computer had a hard-disk with a space of 760 megabytes. There was a c.d.rom drive and something called  a floppy drive.The floppy could store a few megabytes of data. It seemed to be good enough in those days! Today the amount of data that a hard-disk can hold is measured in mind-boggling terabytes. A whopping 1000 gigabytes make up one terabyte! While the computing power of computers has shot up exponentially in the past few years, one wonders if the human mind which has taken millennia to reach its present capacity will be able to take on the computing power of the computers for much longer! It is true that the human mind is more efficient than computers  in the affective and emotional domains, but then who knows, computers might be taught to “think” like human beings? Can we make computers “think?”
Man with overload job
We are living in the information surfeit era where a huge amount of information is being disseminated all over the world, and strangely, because of our limited capacity to filter information, we are probably able to make use of only 10 to 15 % of all the information that we come across in daily life. In an age where we are literally bombarded with bits and pieces of information, most of it useless, we are spending more and more time trying to process information. This in itself leads to serious Psychological problems manifested by irritability, lack of patience, stress, poor self esteem, and a general state of depression and cynicism. An increasing number of cases of road rage, violence in public places, and instances of arguments and verbal duels on the silliest of issues. Life in the 21st. Century is on a fast fuse just moments away from the big bang!
Car trip
Would it be wrong therefore to assume that the human mind can handle only a limited amount of information, and that technology is forcing loads of information far beyond the capacity of the human mind to process? An overloaded machine breaks down, and even an overloaded computer processor breaks down, so then what about the human mind? The human mind differs from the machine in that it requires frequent periods of rest, and in many cases change. That is why employees in the Corporate sector are encouraged to spend quality time with their family, and their out of station annual holiday trips are sponsored by their employers. You just can’t expect that “Dynamic, Go Getter” to maintain his or her edge over a period of time unless you give him or her frequent periods of rest.
Some statistics (published in the Business World edition of 25th. March 2013) of the amount of data bombarding us may be listed as under:
1. 12 Terabytes is the size of tweets in a day.
2.There will be a 23 X increase in the amount of digital data in India from 2012 to 2020   from 127 Exabyte to 2.9 Zettabytes!
3. 90% of the digital data flying around us was generated in the past two years.
4. 0.5% or less of the digital information is analysed in India today!
5. 36% is the size of data that technology can help us analyse today!
Amazing the statistics may sound, it has serious repercussions for us today. What concerns  us is that all this information will surely drive us crazy! It is difficult to come to a conclusion as to the maximum data that a human mind can contain, because data for human beings is not just about data,and statistics,in fact it is also about emotions, social values, ethics, and empathy.In a society where we are wired constantly, we are under a constant pressure to process and filter information that is useful to us! How long can we efficiently buffer this constant bombardment of information? The constant demands on our abilities to process information  might in the end compromise  the affective domain that makes us essentially  human!
Coming back to our wonderful machines today, the processing power of our smartphones far  exceed the computing power of the computers that were used to launch the Apollo missions. What about us? have we kept up with the computing powers of these machines? Sadly, our dependence on machines has us lose our edge. We are not able to concentrate for longer periods of time, we have aversion for writing letters and  we can not  express love and affection for each other and  are afraid to make commitments in human relationships today so much so that we find it difficult to forge lasting relations! All this has led to a steady deterioration in the affective domain. It seems as if we have started thinking like machines,  neglecting  human conventions because emotions might affect our efficiency at work.
overworked worker
There is a noticeable veering away from  the teaching of poetry and classical literature by curriculum framers of languages throughout the world in favour of reading of treatises  non-literary factual,and statistical material  could for the express reason of training students to be efficient information processors.  Education devoid of the teaching of pure arts is like programming students to think like computers.  This will surely affect the minds of  young learners, depriving them of the ability to develop social life skills. The need to think like machines has already started to degrade the social aptitude of our children.  Finally, it seems, information surfeit has begun to take its toll on young minds!

No comments:

Post a Comment