On March 29, 2020, for the launch of CFHU’s new HUJI@Home webinar series, Ido Aharoni gave a captivating presentation on the benefits and hazards of the growing information overload and hyperconnected world. He used the current coronavirus pandemic to illustrate how knowledge is transmitted today in a transformed media reality where people no longer just consume but also create and disseminate copious amounts of content, which is having a major impact on human behaviour, including in the political realm.
People are actively participating in the information and media revolution, for example creating their own newsfeed, whereas once they only passively received what editors deemed worthy of coverage. For centuries, the flow of information was top-down one way, today it’s multiple-way with inclusive interaction.
Currently a branding expert and a New York University professor of international relations, and a former Israeli diplomat, Ido said humanity is creating more information than ever before in history, generating every day twice the quantity of information stored in the US Library of Congress in Washington. Some of that information and data, he said, is allowing companies to accurately predict our behaviour and preferences, based, for example, on our purchases and use of services such as Waze, Amazon, Google or Netflix.
In his presentation, Ido said the main characteristics of the information revolution are the sheer volume of content, the speed and ease with which it can be accessed, how people self-design their own information environments and the technology which has lowered the barriers for participation. Trust is the defining element for this cohort for whom fairness and identity, both on different levels, play a major role in their worldview.
He said participants in this new informational landscape are cross-generational and represent nearly 40% of the global population. They live in a borderless world with ever-expanding social circles, they get their information from a variety of sources, from social media to late night talk shows.
For all the dividends gained from the surfeit of information, there’s also a price to pay as the human brain was not designed to absorb so much material in such a relentless onslaught. One result is people end up making mistakes, falling prey to simplistic solutions to complex problems and preach to their own choirs in echo chambers and filter bubbles.
Paradox also marks the new participants, as Ido depicted them as both the most connected group in history and the most disconnected, at once highly engaged and disengaged. The jury is still out on how it the information revolution will ultimately play out.
The slides of Ido’s presentation are available below the recording of the webinar.