Information overload, Multitasking and how Glance clock helps to manage this. #1
This is a story that I’ve been thinking about for a long time. It provides some scientific facts that are a foundation of Glance clock concept and will stay for the further Glance Tech inventions.
The story is in three parts and here is the first one. Feel free to share with your friends. Enjoy!
Part #1 — Information Overload
Information overload is a terrible thing, but most people don’t understand what causes it. People will tell you that, since the advent of social media, we are all being exposed to much more information, but that’s not true. Humans have always been exposed to vast amounts of information. It was laced throughout the natural and built world all around us, just waiting to be decoded.
Farmers can gather a huge amount of information from the texture and smell of soil, and sailors can decipher the role and pitch of the waves. Both groups have to be able to read the sky and the movement of clouds.
Addressing the topic of information overload back in 1991, Mark Weiser wrote: “There is more information available at our fingertips during a walk in the woods than in any computer system, yet people find a walk among trees relaxing and computers frustrating. Machines that fit the human environment, instead of forcing humans to enter theirs, will make using a computer as refreshing as taking a walk in the woods.”
You see, the problem information overload isn’t caused by the amount of information we have access to, it’s caused by the way that information presents itself.
We used to be able to choose whether or not to pay attention to the vast majority of information we perceived. Now our attention has been gamified, and we are no longer making that choice. Social media gives us the false impression that we are in control, while manipulating us into exposing ourselves to an endless stream of information. The hardware and software is designed to trick us into an unconsciously triggering refresh after refresh, update after update, and the content is deliberately designed to catch our attention, no matter what else we are — or should be — doing. .
Try to imagine how things were just a few decades ago… Back when people had to work a little harder to communicate over distances. They were using land-line telephones that required you to stand in one place the whole time you were talking. They were writing letters on paper that took days or weeks to arrive, and just as long to get an answer, and the answer came to a street address, not directly to you.
In those days, mass media like TV, movies, and radio required you to commit to being in one place for a set amount of time. And the content? You got what they showed. The selection was limited, targeted at large subsections of the general population, and none of the it was immediately interactive. The producers of mass media reached out blindly to their audience, and we decided when to go to where we could receive their message.
Now, with high-speed wireless internet and mobile phones, we can communicate with our friends, family, acquaintances and even strangers 24 hours per day. And the producers of mass media — and their advertisers — can use those same channels to send us their carefully targeted messages 24 hours per day, too.
Now, you may say that you can turn off your devices anytime you want, that you are in control. Try not to laugh (or cry) when you read the next paragraph. Most people won’t believe it!!
Phrases like those last ones are very basic examples of how our attention can be “gamed”. It’s very hard for humans to resist gaining a promised insight. That’s why we love gossip, and that’s why we keep refreshing newsfeed, and checking for updates. That’s why we can’t go anywhere without our phones: we are scared of missing something important.
That’s an old survival instinct that’s hardwired into our brains. To understand it, we have to look back a thousand generations. A steady flow of information was fundamentally important to our survival back when we lived in trees and in tall grass. The other animals around us — friends and family, but also insects and birds — made a constant chorus of noise that streamed at us from all directions. They weren’t talking to us. The content wasn’t as important as the fact that information was streaming. When it stopped coming from one direction, it was a warning to you, your friends, and your family. The animals that had gone silent were hiding from a predator you hadn’t noticed — or had already been eaten!
Our fundamental responses to information hasn’t changed in the intervening years. We’ve built up our languages and our environments, but we are still comforted by a steady stream of background noise. It might be the playlist ringing through your earbuds, or the 24-hour news channel that is always onscreen in the back of the room. You might be thinking: “Not me! I love quiet!”, but do you really? Or is it that you love it when other people’s streams of background noise are quiet, and you only hear what you want to hear?
That’s the terrible beauty of the design of modern social media apps. It is all designed to make each one of us feel like the center of attention.
By itself, that narcissistic personalisation might lead to greater egocentrism and reduced social awareness and cooperation. But when the stream of attention that you are constantly allowing into your unconscious thoughts — where you have no logical or intellectual filters — includes your work, then you will begin to feel that your work is unending and inescapable: that it requires your personal attention 24-hours each day.
Being aware of this doesn’t save us from it. The addiction to the personalised cascade of information persists. As a society, we have become aware of the problem, but we haven’t escaped it. Consider these two words that have become commonplace in recent years: “multitasking” and “mindfulness”. These expressions have been added to our vocabulary to describe our response to the endless stream of information when it includes work.
And things are about to get worse.
What do suppose happens when that same stream that is commingling our social lives and our work also includes paid advertising?
Then the carefully-crafted advertisements have a direct influence on your unconscious. After the fact, you might laugh at the absurdity of something you have read or heard in your stream, but by then it has already entered your subconscious in a context that was specifically designed to influence your feelings about yourself and the world.
But let’s save that scary story for another time, and get back to the idea of multitasking.