Digesting the Data

According to the U.S. Library of Congress, 128 million items, including nearly 30 million books, are housed on 530 miles of bookshelves at the world’s largest repository of information in Washington, D.C. About 100,000 books are published each year in America alone. As one observer has said, “‘Print control’ is probably more urgent than birth control.’”

A single edition of today’s New York Times contains more information than an 18th century American would have encountered in an entire lifetime. And on the World Wide Web, total information available is doubling every 2.8 years. In other words, if you think life is complex now, in three years you’ll have twice as much noise to sift through just to get stuff done.

From a professional standpoint, business practices and assumptions constantly become obsolete, but most of us never see the new trends emerging. As all the statistics suggest, the problem is not a lack of data on which to base our assessment.

Indeed, according to Trends newsletter, more unique information was created in the last couple of years alone than is accessible from all prior human existence combined. It’s incredible to think about and even more so to comprehend.

The lesson to be learned here is that about 80% of communication has a major problem: the information doesn’t require action, or it requires action but there are no consequences of doing nothing. My suggestion for cutting through the data smog is to be more selective in personal media consumption with a goal of using it, not simply perusing it.