FutureWire - futurism and emerging technology

Tuesday, February 01, 2005

Too Much Information

Is it any wonder why we feel more stressed out these days? One factor may be "cognitive overload" from the deluge of information we receive from our e-mail, web surfing, instant messages, Blackberries, cell phones and cable TV. Researchers are coming to understand that our modern maladies are not simply a measure of multitasking gone wild; distraction is beyond our control, and it's affecting our ability to concentrate and control our time. Indeed, some types of multitasking can be dangerous, such as talking on a cell phone while driving.

Scientists are finding that multitasking has very real neurological effects. The human brain isn't designed to switch quickly between tasks, and as a result, gets confused, increasing our stress levels. Research has also found a strong correlation between educated, high-income professionals -- those most apt to use technology -- and "time poverty," the sense of not having enough time in one's day. Some are combatting information overload with "unplugging" on certain days, taking time to contemplate and reconnect with friends, family and the non-technological sides of life.

The Information Revolution has swamped us within a very short time, before we've had time to learn how to cope with it all, and more technology is on the way. Understanding how the mind relates to massive amounts of information will be a key challenge for researchers over the coming years, so that we can have fun and be productive with technology while leaving the strss factor behind.

Sources: Seattle Times, Creative Generalist