Information Scarcity to Information Abundance – Changing thoughts

Couple of things that happened recently, made me think… Has the growth of technology (esp. Internet) actually diminished the value of information?

2 reasons that got me thinking were -
1) I was planning to make a Goan dish – Vindaloo... I logged on to the Internet to check the recipe. I read it, used it to make the dish. All throughout, I never made an effort to remember the recipe and process of making it…One reason could be - In case I need the same information in the future, I could get it at the click of a button…

2) In the past few weeks… the (scam) news sequence could be summed up as follows – IPL scam>CWG scam>2G scam>Adarsh>Media Tapes. While each of the news is important in terms of the freshness and context…the value we attach to the previous incident diminishes drastically with each passing day. The News today has a short shelf life

About 20 years back, (access to) information was scarce. The only known and popular sources of information were – the books, Newspapers, Radio, Television, Magazines, People, etc. Information was also available on computers and various storage devices (remember the floppy disks, tapes ). The information on the new technology systems were more on limited data retrieval rather than real time access of information/news. There was a lot of barrier in terms of accessibility and availability (on demand, real-time basis) of information/news. Yes, in those days, information was a scarce commodity.

The increase in usage of Internet and availability of Internet for public at large changed it all. Suddenly, Information generation and sharing have become simpler. It no longer was confined to mediums that were not in the grasp of the common man. Real time exchange of ideas, news, and content across the globe was a norm. In today’s world, the use of social media platform has made the availability and accessibility of news on as-it-happens basis. In today’s world Information/News is in abundance.

What is the effect of this on the Human Behaviour??

Economists, sociologists have long said: Every market-place reaction is based on 2 key factors of scarcity and abundance. The technology guru George Gilder has long postulated: "Every economic era is based on a key abundance and a key scarcity." I have to add here that most human development and behavior too is formed basis scarcity and abundance.

When the food is in abundance, the Human body stores it as fat in the body so that it can survive during the time of scarcity.

The human brain is also constructed to store huge amount of information. This ability to store and retrieve information has put humans in the apex of the animal kingdom. Humans would have developed the memorizing capabilities by trying to store information about hunting grounds, watering holes, things to avoid, etc during their early years of development as primates. Since the source of information was mostly through experience it was important crucial for our primates ancestors to memorize and store the experience

One of the important effects of things being scare is that its value is always high. That is the reason why we put high value for limited and finite resources like precious stones, minerals, land, etc…
The value of information and specifically information such as News was high during the scarce period. Since the value of News was high, we used to make extra effort to memorize and store the information. I remember my childhood days on how I used to consume news.. reading the newspaper from Left Hand Top to Right Hand Bottom, and trying to memorize as much as possible. Mapping that day’s information with earlier day’s News to construct a flow of events. Even with the advent of TV into every household the consumption of News/Information remained the same… only the format of the source of information changed. Our behavior in terms of storing/memorizing information remained similar

Since there was a high value assigned to information…We conditioned our brains to memorize and remember it.

With the adoption of technology (especially Internet) and the information abundance that followed with it, especially access to real-time news, the value of information has reduced

Whether it is a news item or a video clip of a particular episode of F.R.I.E.N.D.S …it is all available at a click on YouTube or similar Video sharing channel

While ready access to information would have reduced the value of information in terms of us trying to memorize and remember it, another reason could be that we are exposed to multiple source of information (same and different) and human brains could have an auto switch-off mechanism when it reaches, what it believes is, overdose of information. The communication experts have coined a nice term for such thing – Short Attention Span 

My guess on the impact of information abundance on the human behavior is that we would depend more on technology to store information and use our brains to memorize where we can find them in the technology map. We would train our brains more on how to index where the information is and how to find the information rather than the content of the information itself

Example: I would try and remember what keywords I had used to search for specific information on Google and what website I visited post the search results… not necessarily the content of the webpage itself

A few centuries later, this could be a common household scenario

Child: Dad, Where is Africa?
Dad: Ask Google (surely by then Google search would be in speech command mode)

Until then, try and remember the content that is written above :)



Santosh E.G. |Associate Vice President - Digital Marketing
MRM Worldwide | McCann Worldgroup
Twitter: @santosheg


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