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The Singularity, Infomania, and Programmed Reality (cont.)
By Jim Elvidge

Infomania and the Flattening

Erosion of work

But the most significant reason that the exponential pace of technological development is slowing down is that our poor brains are simply not able to keep up. Wikipedia defines Infomania as “the debilitating state of information overload, caused by the combination of a backlog of information to process (usually in email), and continuous interruptions from technologies like phones, instant messaging, and email.” As one who works in the high tech industry, I am well aware of the changes that technology and globalization have imparted on the pace of the typical business life. Not so long ago, people actually took lunch breaks, spent uninterrupted evenings and weekends with their families, paid attention in meetings, and focused on a few large scale tasks on any given day.

Today, however, with the Blackberry on your belt, the cell phone in your pocket, the wireless laptop under your arm, you are imminently reachable 24x7x365.  People email in their cars, instant message from their laptops during meetings, conduct phone conferences during lunch while they work on a couple tasks in between sandwich bites, and in general process many more interrupts than they used to.  This behavior is not only condoned, it is expected in today’s world.

A study done by Intel in 1999 showed that the average worker in the high tech industry spends 2.5 hours per day processing email, much of it unnecessary.[4]  By 2006, another study by the same company showed that the number had risen to 4 hours per day.  In addition, the time that it takes to recover from the email interrupts amounts to another 50%.  For a 9 hour day, that leaves about 2.9 hours of non-email-related work time, not even considering other forms of unnecessary interrupts.  It is no wonder that people feel more stressed and pressured at work than they did a short time ago.  If this is an exponential trend and we project forward another 7 years, we find that email processing alone would take over the average work day, leaving negative time for real work.  So either, the person would have to put in the extra 3.7 hours to make up for the lost productivity (further deteriorating the work/life balance) or something else has to give.

The answer, of course, is that we can’t sustain this exponential pace.  Even if software somehow comes to the rescue with productivity-improving techniques, we have to reverse the trend just to stay productive.  This is symbolic of the overall acceleration effect of modern life.  I believe that it will reach a plateau out of necessity, thereby staving off the Singularity. 

This is perhaps by design.  If our minds and emotional psyches were designed to be able to support an exponentially growing pace of life, our realities would change drastically.  In the 1960s, people thought that we were living in a world that was growing exponentially more dangerous due to the specter of nuclear war.  In fact, we even set the doomsday clock to 2 seconds before midnight.  However, somehow that seemingly inevitable trend was reversed.  Then in the 1970s, the danger was the population explosion.  It seemed that we were on a path of exponentially growing population that threatened to overrun the planet and bring human life to extinction.  Paul Ehrlick’s best-seller, “The Population Bomb”, for example predicted an inevitable mass famine of hundreds of millions of people the 1970s and 1980s.  Not to minimize the current impact of our growing population, this never occurred and the exponential trend has certainly flattened somewhat in comparison to the projections of the time.

It seems that our world, our events, our technology, our trends, have a sort of thermostatic effect.  When they begin to get out of control, something pulls them back to normalcy.  I submit that this is the work of the Programmed Reality, which, being significantly advanced from our best concepts of control systems, has a flattening effect built into all trends.  For this reason, it will have the same effect on the Singularity.  It will simply not occur.  And the reason may just be as simple as the fact that we, the players on the stage of the Reality, are not well suited to maintain that pace of growth.

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