WE TRULY LIVE IN THE INFORMATION AGE. We have access to much more
information than at any other time in human history—whether it takes the form of videos, pictures,
emails, text, or just raw data. We now have access to a vast volume of knowledge by simply typing words
into a Google search. Questions that would have been impossible or time-consuming to answer can
now be addressed in a few seconds. It is now easy to maintain connections with friends and share the
events of our lives through social networking websites. We can make video calls to almost anywhere
in the world. Remarkably, this information can be accessed for almost no cost.
Like many endeavors, competition has driven companies and
organizations to make improvements to fully optimize the available
building blocks from the information age—including access to
more information and faster computing power—to produce better
products. We see this power of competition all around us. The
iPhone 7 is better than the iPhone 6. The Samsung Galaxy phones
have improved right along with the iPhone, while Nokia has lost
market share to Apple and Samsung. Cars, televisions, and almost
every other consumer device has improved as companies have
optimized the opportunities brought about by
the information age.
The advances created by this competition should be celebrated.
We can now live lives that few people could have imagined a few
generations ago. With access to cheap information, we can now
enrich our lives through inexpensive entertainment and a wide
variety of educational content. Beyond personal access to information, these advances have reduced the cost for physical goods,
as efficiency gains can now be incorporated into these products.
Walmart and other retailers can sell products less expensively by
better managing the supply chain through technology. Oil is
now less expensive thanks to our ability to explore for new oil
reserves by using more information. Similar advances have
been made in food production, transportation, and several
other important physical good sectors.
But the advances created by the ongoing competition to
produce better products have come at a cost. By virtue of
increasingly better information-based products, we have
now become increasingly distracted with the myriad of
options available to us. Multitasking has become rampant.
Children and adults alike are choosing video games over
physical activity. Online relationships are taking over for
community and in-person relationships. Television and
internet usage have resulted in total screen time that goes
well beyond what was viewed a generation ago. People
are far more disconnected from their communities as
they seek entertainment that appeals to their unique
interests. Social media sites have prompted people
to engage in branding campaigns that highlight the
positive aspects of their lives and omit the less-than-perfect. For some, the advances in the information age
have adversely impacted their health, relationships,
and even their willingness to improve their lives.
With these technological advances, consumers
and our surrounding culture have begun developing
approaches to enjoy the advances of the information age while also working hard to minimize the
downside of too much information. We have seen
many techniques to control this information
overload—including “technology sabbaths,”
software applications that limit online access,
and practicing mindfulness. Many people are
actively trying to manage the information
deluge and the unintended consequence of
living a life with so much information. As
we all know, this management is not easy.
Why analytic competition
is a problem … and what
we can do about it
BY KURT J. WROBEL