Have We Created Too Much To Handle?
Pity the poor human – we start off with an amazing memory, a sponge-like ability to observe and learn, with sharp senses of vision, hearing, touch, taste, and smell, then over time, they develop into a height, then slowly taper off as we age.
Pity especially the memory – back 10-20-50-100 years ago, in any of those time frames, our big human brain was able to absorb and process the trickle of information from all sources – newspapers, books, journals allowed you to absorb information at your own speed – some read faster than others. We then invented electronic communications, like the radio and TV, where we had to absorb information at the speed at which it was delivered, but only at the time that it was delivered.
The first kind of mass market interactive devices were video games, which, while providing some control over the results, gave us humans some control over the process of the interaction. Eventually, VCRs and Tivo-like devices allowed us to control when we would watch the TV that was broadcast to us. As time progressed, we both got more control over what we could absorb and when, and exponentially more content to absorb.
Since the commercialization of the internet, we’ve seen blogs, podcasts and YouTube (among others) increase the amount of “stuff out there” by orders of a magnitude never before seen. Now we can even control the speed at which we absorb things – my audiobook player can play things as slow as ¾ speed and as fast as 3x speed (too fast for me!) With all of this, is it any wonder that we’re distracted?
Take everything else in life and work – the multitude of things we now need to remember to do. Living life itself has become incredibly complex – the number of adult children living at home, afraid of becoming adults, with full adult responsibility is at an all-time high. Is part of this because life has become overwhelming?
For those who are out there, we can barely keep up with the disruption of life – there are not many areas in one’s life which haven’t suffered some disruption – the recession of 2008 have disrupted the flow of work, turning career employees into gig economy hustlers, taking whatever work that they can, whenever they can. We no longer have fixed incomes – just try getting a mortgage when all you can provide a lender is a sheaf of 1099s from several different companies.
Many young adults are unable to afford to buy homes, or in some extremely expensive centers, unable to even afford to live in their own apartments, barely able to cover the costs of sharing a space with roommates. In some places, a single income will no longer allow you to live on your own. Tracking and managing your income, your time, your professional and private lives, are left to wanting tools like Google Calendar, Outlook or paper notebooks.
We are awash in to do lists, calendars, schedules, emails, social media posts, instant messages, apps, all clamoring for our attention. Has this ever happened to you – your pop up notifications are so numerous that your phone rarely doesn’t vibrate? This flood of inputs is just overwhelming, and since most of us in desperate fear of FOMO, we attempt to absorb everything, but there is no possible way that we can.
We regularly take our most effective time of day and waste it in doing bullshit work, and then try to do our best work when we are tired and flooded with pointless trivia from clickbait (See 5 Ways To Have Sex With Your Apple iPhone)
Underneath, we are all the same curious kids that we were when we were born – we WANT to know everything, all the time, but the stream of constant information in all forms, competing for our attention, attempting to entice us and outrage us so we can consume more, has simply become too much for all of us to process. There is just too much that we need to know, do, and be, and we poor humans have yet to evolve to the point where we can do this.
We need help.
But what kind of help? We can, if we wish to, simply decide to switch things off, cut ourselves off from the world, mentally go back to the world before the internet. There are trends towards minimalism, meditation, disconnecting ourselves from the world. Even partially disconnecting from the world is not an answer, as any connection is so compelling, that you get sucked back into it. But is it possible to disconnect yourself completely from the world, for the world has now become our interface with others over the internet?
If you ask me, there is only one solution – we need robust, intelligent, virtual assistants to help us.
As we go through life, we experience it. And as we experience it, we make decisions to take on things that we need to do, actions that we need to take. As the world floods over us, we filter and capture an infinitesimally small portion of it, then decide to act on it. It’s simply too much.
However, if we had a virtual automated assistant to help us filter the world, help us to capture what is important to us and for us to do, and even do some of the little stuff for us, would that not help?
In the democratization of the internet, in giving the ability for any human on the planet to connect with every human on the planet (an awesome thing) we’ve also created an overwhelming amount of content. We need systems to help us puny humans to sort and manage this content, tell us what is important to us, and help us to manage our world.
The world has become far too complex to be managed by ourselves alone – we need to design and build assistants who can help. We are at the very beginning of this – and its, therefore, the perfect time to focus on this – and if you ask me this is the most important problem we need to solve today – to create a useful, human helping bot which can help us to be better humans. There is no other way.