Information Based Natural Disasters

by Donna Fontenot December 18th, 2008 

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By: Paige Filler

There has been something playing on my mind more and more lately. Especially the longer I spend online involved with social media.

Recent weeks have convinced me that what I am seeing is true.

Information on the Internet can act a lot like natural disasters. The most unnerving amazing part is: those forces are getting stronger every day and the similarities are frightening.

Prepare yourself, there is a storm coming…

Information Wildfires

Wildfire
Image from LouAngeli2008

Spreading like Wildfire
In 1809 it could take 6 weeks to get a message from the London to Washington, today it takes just milliseconds.

in 2009, important information spreads almost instantly, the sheer speed of replication means people can know almost anything in a heartbeat and react just as quickly. (Is it any wonder that twitter is growing so fast?)

Governments, organizations and individuals are often powerless to stop it

Imagine if you could watch World War II live, online from your living room. Would the war have lasted 6 years? Would you have been able to pick and choose battles to watch? Would there be youtube remixes?

Why is this so important?
This rapid spread of information and the ability to react on-the-spot can magnify almost any situation.

Look at how Google news affected United Airlines and what happened to Apple from a mistake by one blog. This could not have happened in 2001. What will be the impact of something like this in 2014?

What's next?
As more people connect, aggregate, feed and react to each others information, the echo chamber becomes more powerful with every new addition. This can cause tsunami-like tidal waves of information across the Internet. Those who can spread the message farthest and fastest will control the power.

Digital Tsunamis

Huge Wave
Image from Soul Surfer

Information Waves
The Internet has increasingly enabled people to connect and build communities for the rapid sharing of information.

These new communities have developed into an environment perfectly suited for tsunami-sized waves of information that can cause a lot of change.

Why is this so important?
We are seeing each wave get stronger than the last. Each force able to have a bigger effect than the previous one. The digg effect out-powers being slashdotted. Each becomes more diverse with a wider base and a quicker reaction.

Tomorrow I am Anonymous, or maybe it's you
As communities grow, organize, then polarize it can lead to virus like organizations that are potentially unstoppable, initially following single aims or specific objectives but expect that to morph.

Wave Power
Obama is a perfect example of someone riding the wave and harnessing the power of the information tsunami to carry him forward. Barack's team undoubtedly knows that riding that wave can at times be highly unstable, but the power is undeniable.

What does this mean?
Creating these waves will be possible by the 'established', at will. Knowing how to ride the waves will be for the few, and most will be at the mercy of the tide.

Standing up against the wave is not possible, the current solutions involve using a preemptive information flood to drown the landscape before anything even happens.

When the day comes that everyone can "respond" at the same time the results will be something to behold.

Information Floods

Flood LevelImage from Joel Telling

They say there is more than one way to skin a cat, but are there really 40,000? What is actually the best way? (trust me, don't look!)

Saturation Point
Which form of cold fusion is worth more to you? Conversations used to disappear into distant memories, now they are recorded in permanent, glorious technicolor (not to mention searchable, findable and traceable). Do we really need want to know what someone tweeted about eating for breakfast last week? This is not the question, the question is… do we need a record of it?

What does this mean?
With so much information from so many sources, so often, machines will be are being tasked with aggregating and sorting data based on our preferences, (from spam blocking to youtube recommendations). How will we know if something is important to us that isn't in our preferences? Accidental discovery is one of the greatest joys of life.

Aside from this, with so much information being produced so fast, no one is able to police it. While others take it upon themselves to decide what we can and cannot see.

The flood of information wikized truths that are endlessly repeated by those looking for exposure, (not producing facts) eventually starts to be considered the truth. Then there is the fact that no one is checking the facts.

Why is this so important?
At what point does all the information become useless? At what point can any of it be taken as truth? Is there a tipping point?

How these "Information Natural Disasters" will change the very landscape and every individual on the planet is yet to be seen, but it will.


What's Next

The future is anyone's guess, but if you want to discover more about the implications of information based natural disasters, then head on over to part 2

Paige Filler

I am Paige Filler and I approve this message.
This message was sponsored and paid for (in terms of work of course!) by the foundation for a busier and better trafficked Paige Filler. No HTML, CSS or tubes were harmed in the making of this broadcast. Any reprint or publication of this article is strictly encouraged anywhere and everywhere in return for crediting the source.

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7 Responses to “Information Based Natural Disasters”

  1. [...] = "http://www.paigefiller.com/information-disasters/"; Paraphrasing what I discussed in part 1 (Information Based Natural Disasters), a lot of information phenomena can appear to act like natural disasters and it is getting [...]

  2. Joe Hall says:

    Wow, excellent article! I am not really sure what to say other than very insightful!

  3. Paige says:

    Thank you.

    What's the worst you've seen?

  4. Tertius says:

    I think, whilst access to information has brought education and innovation to great new heights, information overload might be the end of our civilization or more probably information addiction on a personal level.

    A lot of people put their identity in knowing the latest little bit of news. This causes an extreme amount of stress to always stay updated, not just on their specific field but more widely.

    What if I missed something?! Making you nervous and anxious.

    I'm not saying this is the case for all, but a lot of people suffer with this. Cut out 90% of the info and you'll live a happier more satisfying life.

    IMO.

  5. Obama's entire online marketing approach is genius. I think his team's online marketing approach was one giant factor for his success.

  6. Paige says:

    @Tertius – Agreed, especially considering the fact that so much of the information is lacking in credibility. Addiction makes it even more difficult to distinguish fact from fiction.

    @Nick – I think Ron Paul's campaign was genius, then the Obama team took the best elements and ran with them. The impact of the Internet on politics & elections is inevitable.

  7. Steve says:

    I am more excited than most that the information revolution is only just beginning. In the next 10-20 years we're going to be able to model data in such detail that will turn our world upside down, for the best. Think about the prospect of having no wars, no disease and living in harmony with the environment. We have come a long way in 100 years and the speed of progress is proliferating every day. Thank you for your discussion above.
    Steve