As it turns out, the era in which we are living is called The Big Data Era. And for good reason. The amount of data being generated right now is stunning.
Facebook, for instance, claims to generate more “news” (more on that Thursday) in a single day than any other media outlet has in its entire existence.
Consider the following: We are overwhelmed by a torrent of information: 900,000 blog posts, 50 million tweets, more than 60 million Facebook status updates, and 210 billion e-mails are sent off into the electronic ether every day. Eric Schmidt likes to point out that if you recorded all human communication from the dawn of time to 2003, it’d take up about 5 billion gigabytes of storage space. Now we’re creating that much data every two days.1
Or take a company called Acxiom, which needs FIVE ACRES OF LAND for its massive data banks that contain an average of 1,500 pieces of information on 96 percent of Americans. That data includes family members by name, pets (down to the breed), financial history, current and past address, any medications you take, whether you are right or left handed… and so much more. (It sells that information, BTW, to most of the largest companies in America).2
Here’s one final example. The National Security Administration is generating so much data that there is not enough electricity on the grid to support that much computing. The NSA is asking Congress for funds to build new power plants. By 2014, they anticipate dealing with so much data they’ve invented new units of measurement.3
The point of all this is that we have no hope of managing it all. This leads to something called “Attention Crash”, which simply means that we come to that place in time where we are so overwhelmed by the sheer volume of information out there that we tune out.
Enter the Filter Bubble. Through intelligent agents (think the Matrix) and gatekeepers (a polite word for censors), it seeks to manage all this data for us. Since we can’t pay attention to it all, it will show us only the data on which we want to focus. In other words, it offers us a vision of a custom-tailored world, every facet of which fits us perfectly. It’s a cozy place, populated by our favorite people and things and ideas.4
In other words,If I never want to hear Newt Gingrich on one side or President Obama on the other, I won’t have to. But… is that really a good thing? That’s where we’ll go tomorrow.
All footnotes come from Pariser, Eli (2011-05-12). The Filter Bubble: What the Internet Is Hiding From You (p. 37). The Penguin Press. Kindle Edition. Pages 37, 10-12