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Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Too Much Information: "What Hath God Wrought!"

Today the "internet," as its called, uses about 1.5% of all electrical power on earth.

That's right, on the entire earth.

More than all the power used to make automobiles.

The "cost" of this power, based on the same site, would be about $8.5 billion USD per year.

Today there are about 2.4 billion internet users.

About one third of the entire planet is "connected."

So we an expect the power consumption to perhaps double in the next several years to 60 nuclear plants worth of "internet."

Of course this does not include cell phone usage, texting, email, and so forth.

What's all this used for?

Its hard to say, but today at least a huge portion in the US is tied up with Netflix-type streaming video; I've seen figures as high as 50%, at least during "peak TV times," of all internet traffic is streaming video.  Of course there is YouTube, Hulu, and all the rest contributing to that as well.

A lot of storage is used for backups, pictures, music, and so forth as well.

When you think about it how many copies of a song really needs to be stored, though?

Take any popular song - each person that downloads or steals or buys it has it on their device.

Perhaps billions of copies of the same 3.5Mb MP3 file.

Then there is the distraction of all this.  According to this article we waste hours each day with Facebook, emails, texts as well as the time to recover from the interruption each represents.

My guess is that most people today who are "connected" actually get much less done.

Back twenty five years ago when I managed a small software development project we had a joke about this.

There was a "boss" who would often run into the office and start babbling about "shouldn't we do this."  More often than not the "this" was something completely off the topic and current focus of the developers.

Over time this became a big joke.

So finally, one day I set out to explain to the "boss" why this was a problem.

He came running into the office waving his arms about something or other completely out of focus relative to what I and the staff were doing.

"Hold on!" I shouted.

I then picked an empty box up off the floor and violently swept the contents of my desktop into the box which I then threw onto the floor.

"There," I said, "now I can focus on you..."

He blinked with surprise.

I said "and when you leave I will dump that box back onto my desk.  It will take me at least a half an hour to sort everything back out and start working again... Now, what is it you want?"

Twenty five years ago this was a joke.

But today all of our 30 billion watts of power spent on the "internet" - more with phones included - is all designed to do what I just described above.

Take your focus and scramble it.

Except today no boss need arrive in your office.

Anyone on the planet can do it.

And as long as your "connected" - particularly with something like a smartphone supporting "notifications" - you can be distracted by the dumbest and must useless nonsense.

In a few years there will be so much internet that no one will get anything done.

Life will become a constant, useless distraction.

And its focus will be extending that distraction to virtually every corner of our lives where its not present already (if there is any for some).

Good and bad information will fly around the planet in seconds wasting peoples time and energy.

In the 1800's Samuel Morse connected Baltimore and Washington DC by a telegraph line.

"What hath God wrought" was the first message transmitted on May 24, 1844 over this line.

Though this was only 160 years ago at the time people did not realize the extent of things like a storm (later on people realized that though it was raining on one end of the telegraph line it might not be on the other - imagine).

But today there is too much information.

Did Britney Spears pass gas?  Did Katy Perry wear red shoes?

Who cares.

But you can bet damn sure that a billion people will know post haste.

And that tens of thousands of work hours will be lost twittering about it.

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