In the past 10 years, the processing and delivery of information to human being has been accelerating in an exponential way. Is it a good thing for us human beings and can we handle it? Are we going to drown in an ocean of e-junk flooding the Internet?
The explosion of data volumes from Layer 3 to Layer 7
There are two striking statistics that illustrate that dramatic increase of the volume of information processed over Internet.
Layer 3. According to Cisco, the world will exchange more than 1 ZB of data volume over Internet this year (1 ZB or zettabyte = 1,000 EB or exabytes). The evolution has been exponential in the past 10 years as the global Internet traffic was peaking at “only” 2,000 Gbps in 2007, is now above 20,000 Gbps and will probably reach 60,000 Gbps by 2020 [Source].
Layer 7. In 2016, we estimate that more than 500 hours of videos are uploaded on YouTube every minute! This is 10x more than 5 years ago and 100x more than 10 years ago; at the same time viewership has exploded and it can take only a few days (4 days for “Gentleman” by PSY) or a couple of weeks (several videoclips by Taylor Swift) for a viral video to reach 100 millions views [Source].
Yes, at the same time the number of users on Internet has been growing, but only from 1 Bn to 3.4 Bn, and not at an exponential rate as shown on the graph below:
So the average volume of data consumed by one Internet user has increased significantly.
The dark sides of the “networked society”
That is what is happening today with the multiplication of ways to connect to Internet and this is also one of the promises of 5G. Be always connected to Internet.
With apps pushing a lot of notifications every day to keep us engaged and aware of the existence of Internet, we are never able to go offline to focus only on reality. This uber-connectivity which seemed great at first is showing its bad side today.
Media and news 24/7
Specifically focusing on news content, it would be interesting to analyze the evolution of the quantity of original information produced versus the total amount of articles published in a day. Nowadays most of the information available on news websites or 24/7 news channels is a simple relay of news agencies reports (Reuters, AFP…). And when these reports are unverified, it leads to terrible situations, like when the French news agency published by mistake the death note of a tycoon who was alive and healthy (see: La mort de Martin Bouygues annoncée par erreur à l’AFP).
The problem is that value of the news is today more based on how fast it was published online and less on how original and interesting its content is, because buzz is what makes advertising revenue the highest.
Big Data and Suggestions
With all the amount of data that Google is collecting about us, it is now able to suggest some articles and videos to everyone. I noticed two personal examples which I found interesting to relate here:
- Recently, I have clicked on one article about an extra-terrestrial research initiative funded by Stephen Hawking, and now I literally am flooded with X-filesques articles about reptilians being already among us.
- I have been following the French politics watching a couple of videos on YouTube, and now I can only see French politics videos suggested on YouTube, and nothing more original that could make me think about something else than that.
Big data suggestion algorithms lock us inside filter bubbles which prevent us from seeing alternative things, ideas, opinions or information to confront it with our reality. It also acts as an amplifier of trends by self-alimenting people opinions and certainties, and create sorts of big data cracks (which I find similar to the side effects of high-frequency trading on the stock-market when they go off-control).
Soon it will be possible to have an entire chat conversation just by replying with the suggestions proposed by the Google Chat App “Allo” as described in the article:
During your conversations with friends (or the Google Assistant) Allo offers smart reply suggestions that you can tap on, essentially shortcut responses that relate to the last thing that was said. Some responses were generic or not very helpful, others closer to the mark. When talking about the food that I like, for example, one of the smart reply choices I could tap on was, “I’m vegetarian.”
At some point Google or Facebook could be able to predict what we want to say, little by little de-humanizing the conversations we can have with other people over a messaging application. The little time gained with the autoreply is at the expense of the human part of the communication and its unpredictability, typos, mood, etc.
Sorry to show a very pessimistic view on the innovations happening nowadays on Internet. I hope this is an exaggerated point of view and would be very happy to see your opinion about those new things coming in our life. How do you deal with it? Do you see them as an improvement of your quality of life?