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The age of information overload

    Век информационной перегрузки

    In 2015, Daniel Levitin, a well-known neuroscientist, published The Organized Mind: Thinking in the Age of Information Overload, in which the author explains why it is so difficult for people in our time to concentrate on one thing.

    In 2011, Americans consumed five times more information per day than, for example, in 1986. In terms of volume, it is comparable to 174 newspapers. During their lifetime, each person processes 34 gigabytes of data, or about 100,000 words every day.
    The 20,000 television stations produce 85,000 hours of original programming per day, of which people watch an average of 5 hours per day, which is about 20 gigabytes of photo and video data. At the same time, more than 6 thousand hours of videos are uploaded to YouTube every hour. In total, people have already created about 300 exabytes of data.

    The human brain is capable of handling a large amount of information, but its work comes at a price. People have problems when it becomes necessary to separate important data from non-essential, this process is tiring. Neurons that require oxygen and glucose for life are quickly depleted.

    Every status update you read on social media, every tweet, every text message you receive from a friend is vying for your brain’s resources with bigger questions: should you invest your savings in the bank where you left your passport or how quickly come to an understanding with the wife with whom you quarreled.


    Human consciousness can perceive no more than 120 bits of information per second. It is this amount of data that he can pay attention to at any given moment. At the same time, a conversation with one interlocutor requires the perception of 60 bits of information per second, which means that a person at the limit of his abilities can pay full attention to only two people speaking at the same time.
    In most cases, you will not be able to understand what three people are talking to you at the same time. We are surrounded by billions of people on the planet, but at one moment we are able to understand only two. No wonder there are so many misunderstandings in the world.

    Attention is one of the most important mental resources of the body. Millions of neurons are constantly monitoring the world around them, choosing the most important things from it and passing the secondary things past consciousness. Levitin calls these neurons the “attention filter.” When you drive on the highway for several hours, you don’t remember most of the places you see: your “attention filter” protects you from this information because it doesn’t consider it important.

    According to Levitin, in the modern world there is only one effective method of filtering information – other people. A separate human brain is outdated for the modern rhythm of life.
    Corporate bosses, political leaders, movie stars, and other people whose attention is especially important keep around them people who are essentially extensions of their brains, recreating the work of the “attention filter” of the prefrontal cortex. For the less successful among us, focusing will still cost a lot of mental effort.

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