Information at the speed of need

The distance between information and our brain is getting shorter.

Twenty years ago if you had access to a large information base, such as the Library of Congress, and someone asked you a series of questions, your task would have been to pour through the racks of books to come up with the answers. The time involved could have easily have been 10 hours per question.

Today, if we are faced with uncovering answers from a digital Library of Congress, using keyboards and computer screens, the time-to-answer process has been reduced to as little as 10 minutes.

The next iteration of interface design will give us the power to find answers in as little as 10 seconds.

The ease and fluidity of our information-to-brain interface will have a profound effect on everything from education, to the way business is being conducted, to the way we function as a society.

Before we dive into the implications of what’s in store, it’s important to understand where we’ve come from.

Ten Years: Before the time of recorded information, decisions we made from trial and error, best guesses, and stories passed down through the ages. New ideas took years to move from thought leader to thought leader, if it ever happened at all.

Ten Months: When monks began transcribing the notions of prominent thinkers, information was placed in the few isolated storehouses of the day. The time between questions and answers was reduced from years to months, but still painfully slow.

Ten Days: After the invention of the Gutenberg printing press, books became more available. Most major cities started creating information centers to store and preserve the wisdom of their leading thinkers.

Ten Hours: With the invention of 20th century libraries, our access to information again went through a radical transformation. Elementary schools, high schools, and colleges all added libraries to their facilities, and the distance to information dropped from days to hours.

Ten Minutes: Once information made the quantum leap from the traditional ink-on-paper to today’s digital format, our connection to information became far more personal. Today, because of the speed and convenience associated with information access, the volume of ideas that we are exposed to on a daily basis has increased exponentially.

Ten Seconds: We are very close to making the next jump to the 10-second interface. This turbo-charged brain-to-web interaction will make today’s slow connection speeds look like ancient history. Every question will have an answer, every problem will have a full list of possible solutions.

Ten Milliseconds: Once we get past the notion that “fast” can be made to go even faster, we will begin to enter an entirely new era where collaboration will happen instantly across all kinds of boundaries, with all kinds of people. The rulebook for the entire world will be rewritten around the “speed of need.”

Dispelling Myths

Venturing into new territory is a perfect opportunity for us to speculate, and since I’m not brain matter expert, this is the part that will probably get me in trouble. Some of my assumptions may indeed be erroneous. But science fiction has evolved into the ugly step-sister of the horror industry, leaving us with far too many crazy notions about mind control and the evil intent of people working in this field.

Increasing the speed with which we access information will not mean we are becoming “The Borg” on Star Trek. Our minds will not instantly become controllable or even accessible to others without our consent. Even if they were it would be a non-issue.

Every mind is different. The patterns and connection we make inside our own minds is uniquely our own. To someone peering in from the outside it will be like looking at a cryptic 3-dimensional document written in a foreign language.

To be sure, dangers still exist, but most will result from areas we don’t yet understand. Social reclusiveness, information additions, and destructive idea viruses may all be part of a much longer list of things that can go wrong.

Next-Generation Learning

As most good journalists and storytellers have learned, the basic components of every story deals with six elements – who, what, when, where, why, and how.

Four of these elements – who, what, when, and where – are factual. With a 10-second interface, it becomes far less important to commit factual information to memory because it is so easily accessible.

Many of today’s most scholarly people who have master the capacity to retain vast reservoirs of informational minutia will find themselves oddly staring toe to toe with average people who have mastered the exact same ability, albeit indirectly with the use of technology.

Schools will no longer focus on the factual information but on the indirect aspects like relational elements, pattern analysis, value statements, opinions, and basic questions like “why” and “how.”

Here are some examples of questions that are not easily answered with a 10-second interface:

  • Explain the context within which those comments were made?
  • How do animal behaviors vary from species to species?
  • Was their underlying motivation behind that change detrimental to their cause?
  • How did that kind of thinking relate to what other cultures were going through?
  • Why do you think that happened?
  • Based on your understanding of the situation, was that a good move?

The Fluid Flow of Ideas

Our access to information will continue to decrease in terms of time and distance until it reaches the point of becoming seamless and invisible to the end users.

The technology itself will begin to disappear, losing its “presence” as components shrink and become more biologically integrated. Much of the focus will begin to shift towards thinking strategies that support the most efficient flow of ideas.

Today’s reading processes requires the human brain to work through a rapid-fire micro-decision making procedure to convert characters on a page into mental concepts and images. Some people’s brain processes naturally work far faster than others and reading speeds vary tremendously.

The 10-second interface will cause us to rethink virtually every aspect of information flow.

  • What will constitute information in the future?
  • What will be the most efficient form of information?
  • How will information be stored, accessed, transmitted, and retrieved?
  • And, most importantly, who gets to decide?

Final Thoughts

Every piece of cutting edge technology ushers in an entirely new set of problems. Innovations become self-perpetuating because problems demand solutions, and all solutions create more problems.

Having lived for many years, I can attest first-hand to the changing nature of finding answers. For the impatient side of me, this has been a painfully slow evolution. To most, however, the changes seem like a blur with little recognition of the turning points along the way.

When the 10-second interface finally arrives, I will invite all of you to join me in a 10-second toast as we stop to celebrate the importance of this accomplishment.

Enjoy it while you can, the next celebration, perhaps only a few more years away, will only last 10-milliseconds.

By Futurist Thomas Frey

8 Responses to “Power of 10 Interface”

Comments List

  1. <a href='http://www.rick-fowler.com' rel='external nofollow' class='url'>Rick Fowler</a>

    Thanks for the insight. I always enjoy reading your ideas about the future.
  2. <a href='http://www.GlobalCoherence.com' rel='external nofollow' class='url'>Ron Hall</a>

    Dear Tom, I am always intrigued by your Future Trend Reports and felt to submit the following thoughts. In the early 1990s with my introduction to the internet, it occurred to me that the human mind could do anything that our technology was allowing us to do and more, without the use of any technology. After all the technology that we create is the result of the evolution of our consciousness. The only thing that was keeping us from preforming all of these marvels with our mind alone, was that we had not yet come to believe that it was possible and that the introduction of all of these wonders was simply a process to bring along our belief systems, our consciousness, if you will, to the point that we understood that any communication at any level and at any distance could be accomplished from mind to mind and minds to minds, with out any enhancing technology, as well as any knowledge that existing anywhere is instantly available to anyone anytime simply with the intention to know. I continue to believe this and possibly in the next several years, but at least at some point in our future. Concerning the potential problems one might foresee with this scenario, I believe that greed, deceit and many other undesirable traits including attempts of mind control, will disappear from our planet and with full disclosure always available, there will be no need for secrets of any kind as competition will become cooperation. Food for thought, With best regards, Ron Hall 435/674-0833
  3. <a href='http://Market-Engineering.com' rel='external nofollow' class='url'>Gary Lundquist</a>

    Your 10 second issues barely touch the problems. >> Context of the context of the context in an infinite expansion. Which branch is most relevant, most revealing, most useful. Which is least risky, most environmentally correct, … How many criteria can we fit on the head of a bit? >> Quality of decision processes, in context of an infinite expansion of prior decisions. >> Inability to apply context or decision processes because of complexity. >> Authorization: Legal rights to the answers. Signing of non-disclosure and other protections. >> Administrative processes. Confirmation of rights to access even after authorization is complete. >> Sheer volume: Too many answers. Wikipedia gone rampant. Too many experts. >> Choices: We now rate answers, books, etc. Who is “we?” How does the vote of the average person impact the true value of information? Which version is correct? Which best? Which most useful in a particular context? If we set criteria for one type of information, will it apply to another issue? I wonder if speed will be the best criterion for quality. Thanks for bringing up challenging topics.
    • admin

      Gary, Thanks for diving into this. You're right, the issues are far more complicated than what I described, and I love how you're looking at this from so many different angles. To some, speed is the great panacea destined to fix everything. But it will, most assuredly, create additional problems. I know I don't have all the answers, but I think this is a great topic to debate, something that needs to happen before the 10-second interface arrives. Many thanks, Tom
  4. <a href='http://Market-Engineering.com' rel='external nofollow' class='url'>Gary Lundquist</a>

    Tom, I am a futurist of sorts. I write science fiction. In Invitation to Space, various species made "speeches" to help us poor Humans adapt well enough to survive our childhood. Change is a fundamental characteristic of this universe. Change in civilization is both accelerated and blocked by existing modes and structures. The sum is so complex that we cannot manage it in any effective way. Not as people, not as organizations, not as governments. >> We live in a time when change is overwhelming. It will only get faster. >> We live in a time when our infrastructure is not capable of managing the changes. >> Futurists help their readers manage change by offering hints of the chaos that is our true existence. >> Keep up the good work, brother. Gary
  5. <a href='http://www.dustoffyourdreams.net' rel='external nofollow' class='url'>Bill Miller</a>

    Tom, When does your book come out? Bill
  6. RBuss

    Hello Tom, The speed of information retrieval is very insightful. I think you could expand this to include the speed of information dissemination, which must be one hundred times slower than the speed of information retrieval. Before recorded history it would take 1000 years for an idea like bronze working, farming or the wheel to propagate across cultures. With writing, it took 100 years to move an idea into another culture. The printing decreased this to ten years. With digitalization, it takes ten months for an idea to propagate. Look at the adoption time for a new idea like twitter as proof of this timeframe. Given this, the retrieval of information will always be behind the generation of knowledge and can produce chaotic results when the search is too close to generation. An example might be diet food products that turn out to be counterproductive, or stock market programs that misread the market they are manipulating. -Bob.

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