Information overload: how technology is changing the world

@IE University

Information is everywhere. From smartphones to surveillance cameras, we are surrounded by data and knowledge. We can discover the answer to any question with a quick Google search and our daily online activity constantly contributed to this mountain of data.

In fact, by 2025, it’s estimated that 463 exabytes of data will be created each day globally. To put this in perspective, that’s the equivalent of 212,765,957 DVDs.

How did information become so ubiquitous? How did the evolution of technology lead to the ever-increasing generation and distribution of information around the globe? And how can companies harness this information to empower us and drive growth?

Digital revolution

From the year 2000 to 2015 there was a boom in smartphones, Wi-Fi, digital tablets, GPS, and social media platforms—among thousands of other forms of technology. And since 2015, the evolution of technology has only accelerated with machine-learning algorithms, artificial intelligence, blockchain, and the ongoing expansion of smart technology.

Three decades ago, nobody even owned a computer. Today, children as young as nine carry mini-computers around in their pockets. Not only do today’s smartphones have 16-megapixel cameras but we can also use Google maps to locate anything on Earth and have access to more than 30 million songs on Spotify.

Similarly, as communication networks have improved and digital components have sped up, we have all become more connected. As a result, information is able to spread further and quicker than ever.

Our capacity to store information has also skyrocketed thanks to the evolution of technology. For example, in 1956, IBM’s 305 RAMAC Disk System could hold up to 5 MB, using 50 disks, each 24 inches in diameter. Just under 70 years later, we can store more than four gigabytes of data on a drive less than an inch wide.

technology

Grow your IT skills and focus on developing a critical mindset. Everybody should have a decent level of programming and data science.

Alum Luis Martinez De Carvajal – Digital Strategist at Cisco

Information acceleration

The availability of information has snowballed in recent decades. The reason for this exponential growth is because of the law of accelerating returns, otherwise known as Moore’s law.

The evolution of technology accelerates over time because each generation of technological innovation improves on the one before. As computing power, storage, and bandwidth gets better, new innovations rapidly emerge that take advantage of these improvements.

These innovations interact with each other, combining to create even more innovations. And as technology is upgraded, it attracts attention, and therefore investment, and this also leads to more innovation. There is a constant feedback loop.

Today, ever-accelerating growth can be seen in areas as diverse as network speed and memory capacity, which are constantly getting better. The exponential growth of digital technology leads to information proliferating at an increasingly faster rate.

Ubiquitous information

Today we can retrieve and exchange information on demand. It’s often just as easy as clicking a button. We are living the Information Age: a civilisation based not around production but on information as commodity. Information is everywhere and it’s increasingly accessible.

We can take DNA testing kits to reveal potential genetic health risks. Websites like Reddit gives us access to the opinions and experiences of 330 million people from around the world. Live camera feeds mean we can watch live action of everything from the Northern Lights to animals drinking from African waterholes.

Project Gutenberg is an online library of over 60,000 free books and the world’s scientific journals are also all available online. And we can follow the movements of our friends and families using location tracking technology.

Information everywhere

Information for everyone

We have endless amounts of data at our fingertips. Knowledge is the most accessible it’s ever been. Today, all you need is internet access and you have access to a seemingly infinite reserve of information on every possible subject.

Digital technology has enabled a boom in online learning, with universities around the world able to offer remote video lessons in place of in-person teaching, making education more accessible.

And with information more readily available, people can become informed on subjects independently rather than depending on the opinions of experts. For example, online legal information is empowering people to manage their legal affairs autonomously, and only hiring lawyers when necessary.

In many ways, the proliferation of digital technology has democratized knowledge through the spread of information.

How companies can benefit from ubiquitous information

One major way companies can benefit from the proliferation of information is by leveraging data. Data is everywhere in the form of digital information. For example, by drawing insights from sales data, businesses can better understand their customers, and then engage in targeted marketing.

Similarly, real-time business analytics allow the evaluation of data as soon as it arrives, enabling companies to make informed decisions faster. As a result of this improved understanding of business operations, workers can complete their jobs more effectively.

For example, hiccups in logistical operations can be identified and corrected. And risk analysts in areas like banking and insurance can take advantage of incoming data to modify risk models.

Helping employees upskill is also easier than ever with so much information available online. Professionals can build their skills and competencies with online courses, or share digital knowledge with each other to improve overall performance.

Information

Regardless of the field or industry you end up working in, I think that technology is going to be really relevant. Even if you are passionate about literature or art, most likely technology is going to play an important role in those areas. In fact, I would say that in the years to come, technology will play an increasingly important role in every area and sector.

IE University student Samuel González

The last word

We are living in a knowledge economy. The development and distribution of knowledge is now what generates economic growth.

For companies to thrive today, they must embrace the ubiquity of information and translate that information into knowledge. Companies that harness knowledge can better prepare themselves for the constant change that is part of modern day life and, in the process, boost their capacity for growth, propelling their businesses into the future.