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From Here To Singularity

"The time from here to Singularity depends sensitively on the particulars of what we humans do during the next decade (and even the next few years)."

The Most Deadly Book in the World

Too much information is bad for you.

The evidence is slowly coming in, but my gut feeling is that it’s really, really bad for you. I very brief search of recent news (most of the following quotes are from the last week or so) points in the direction of a global melt down of information overload.

Developers of the social bookmarking site Reddit says:

While we were developing Reddit, we always used to run into people who’d recognize us and come up to say hi. “Oh, wow,” they’d say to us. “I can’t tell you how much your site has killed my productivity. I check it a hundred times every day.” At first, we just laughed these comments off. But after a while, I begun to find them increasingly disturbing. We’d set out to make something people want — but what if they didn’t want to want it?

Or, more to the point, maybe they wanted it so much, it killed them?

A young and overweight internet addict from northern China collapsed and died after spending the entire lunar new year holiday playing computer games, local media reported today.

The situation has grown so acute that 10 South Koreans — mostly teenagers and people in their twenties — died in 2005 from game addiction-related causes, up from only two known deaths from 2001 to 2004, according to government officials. Most of the deaths were attributed to a disruption in blood circulation caused by sitting in a single, cramped position for too long — a problem known as “economy class syndrome,” a reference to sitting in an airplane’s smallest seats on long flights.

In an online survey of more than 400 gamers who were regularly playing a game called Asheron’s Call, the research project discovered some players confessed their time online led to arguments at home and negatively affected their work and social life. On average they were spending 18.5 hours a week online playing. One player claimed to be spending 100 hours a week online. Among the criteria that Dr Charlton believes are important in classifying people as addicted, the survey showed:

* More than 40% said their social life was suffering
* 30% recognised gaming was interfering with their work
* 40% said it was causing arguments at home
* 50% confessed they were not getting enough sleep
* 35% said they missed meals to carry on playing.

Yes, shock, shock, horror, horror. If you have even a cursory involvement in online news, you’ve read about these studies. I’m not posting them to scare you, or inform you, but just to point out a growing trend. 400 people self reporting is a good first step. But it’s not the first step. There are dozens of studies showing the problem with online world. It’s just too much of a good thing. And I don’t mean World of Warcraft. I mean all of it.

In a first-of-its-kind, telephone-based study, the researchers found that more than one out of eight Americans exhibited at least one possible sign of problematic Internet use.

The findings follow results from previous, less rigorous studies that found a significant number of the population could be suffering from some form of Internet addiction. “Our telephone survey suggests that potential markers of problematic Internet use are present in a sizeable portion of the population,” the researchers noted in their paper, which appears in the October issue of CNS Spectrums: The International Journal of Neuropsychiatric Medicine. “We often focus on how wonderful the Internet is – how simple and efficient it can make things,” elaborated lead author Elias Aboujaoude, MD. “But we need to consider the fact that it creates real problems for a subset of people.”

“It’s getting more and more recognition,” says David Greenfield, a clinical psychologist in West Hartford and an authority on the subject of Internet addiction. “It’s a worldwide disorder, and it is clearly not going away anytime soon.”

Ok, shock horror alarmist news reports aside, what does this thing mean? What does it mean to have built the worlds most engaging information platform, without being able to foresee the consequences of something so incredibly distracting?

Well, I’m afraid you’ll have to wait around to find out, while I write it. If that gives you any kind of distress or discomfort,you may want to seek medical help before it gets any worse.

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