After decrying the sensory overload that some of us are suffering, I want to offer a slightly more positive view on the wealth of comms technologies available. It stems from a defence of IM blogging services such as Twitter and Jaiku, that I read a couple of months back (though I confess I can’t remember where — possibly Wired).
Many people just don’t ‘get’ these services — basically tiny blogs of a few words or characters, telling you what the blogger is doing at that moment. They criticise them as pointless and narcissistic. But the commentator in said forgotten article pointed out that the constant stream of information from your friends as they go about their lives becomes a type of extra sense. You begin to know instinctively where a person might be at a given time, and you get a much better idea about how their day/week/life has been going.
As long as the human brain can adapt to the vast amount of information streams available, bite-sized information streams like this may indeed begin to give us a form of sixth sense. We are already adapting in some sense, to pop-ups from our IM, text alerts with football scores and electronics screens in high streets and train stations throwing out snippets of information. Even the free papers given away on commuter routes now seem to be written to appeal to those used to receiving all their information in 160 characters or less.
Imagine if we found a way to begin absorbing these streams of information in a more comfortable, automatic, subliminal fashion. Imagine how well informed we would be, and how much better our decision making might become, if these streams began to cover a whole range of information. You could stay in bed five minutes longer knowing that the traffic is fine that morning; pick up a bunch of flowers on the way home because you know your partner has had a rough day; choose to go to the gym another day because the pool is closed for repairs. All this information is available to us today, but we either have to seek it out, or it has to be fed to us. In an ideal world, we could just absorb it and use it.
It’s not quite ESP as forecast in the Book of the Future, where people with psionic powers go in to battle and can divert missiles and damage enemy space ships. But it’s still quite an exciting prospect.