Media Black Hole: So Much News That We’ll Implode?

Have you noticed? The news cycle is spinning faster. And faster. Andfasterandfaster.
Christopher Lee (R-NY) resigns because of a scandal even before the
scandal is known to the public. On websites we get Tuesday’s news on
Monday. As online commenters, we discuss articles we haven’t read and
dis movies we haven’t watched. Google anticipates the stories we want to see even before we know we want to
see them. And as one person tweeted recently: “Tunisia’s revolution took
four weeks. Egypt: 17 days. Who’s next and how much time do they have?”
it comes to the news of the day, newspapers, websites, bloggers, cable
networks and aggregators all trip over themselves to be the fastest and
the first. The competition has always existed, but technology has ramped
up the rivalries.
At this increasingly
accelerated pace, is it inevitable that noteworthy events — and the news
they engender — will rush lickety-split into each other? What happens
when things just cannot occur any faster? What if the rapidity of the
newscycle outpaces the news itself and we wind up in some form of warp
speed — living life in a wormholish, time-wrinkled world?

Faster And Faster

It’s not just the news that is moving faster.
get speedier. The Super Sport model of the Bugatti Veyron is the
fastest street-legal car on the planet. It can travel at more than 267
Trains are more rapid. In China, the Harmony Express high-speed train zips along at an average of more than 215 mph.
run swifter. Scienceline, a New York University website, recently
pointed out that in 1936, track star Jesse Owens set a human speed
record for the 100-yard dash at a 21.7 mph clip. In 2009, Usain Bolt
traversed the same 100 yards at nearly 28 mph.
much faster can we run? Scienceline asked. Apparently, a lot faster.
Peter Weyand, a researcher at Southern Methodist University in Texas,
reports that humans should, theoretically, be able to move at 35 or 40
mph. And, with genetic modification, “radically faster,” he tells the
website. “If somebody manages the technical trick of having really fast
animal fibers introduced and expressed, then all bets are off. Really
crazy things would happen.”
Such gene-doping, he adds, is just around the corner. And we are headed there. Fast.
— Linton Weeks

James Gleick, author of the 1999 classic Faster: The Acceleration of Just About Everything, says, “Everybody thinks there’s got to be a breaking point. But the breaking point never comes.”
A Quantum Leap
overwhelming as the rush of news — the comings and goings of despots,
the rise and demise of movements — can be, there is some “comfort” to be
found in the laws of the universe, says J. Richard Gott III, an
astrophysicist at Princeton University and author of Sizing Up the Universe: The Cosmos in Perspective.
For the news to outrun the event is an impossibility in this universe,
he says. That’s because of the “Planck time” — the smallest measurement
of time possible, in quantum physics terms — that would occur between
“You can’t change governments faster
than the Planck time,” he says. “Otherwise, you create a black hole and
the events collapse into each other.”
Phew. In that, one supposes, there’s a quantum of solace.
Still, with news — and reaction to news — moving more quickly than ever, says Louis Gray, a Silicon Valley blogger who chronicles the ever-increasing speed of computers and companies, “it is safe to
assume the public does not know about many top stories or issues, and
cannot be assumed to have enough data to ascertain truth versus spin,
and right versus wrong.”
As a result, Gray
says, “people are intentionally filtering the information they consume
through sources they agree with, or are turning instead to entertainment
and idle-time activities, becoming less informed.”
News Finders, Not Makers
Steven Rosenbaum, author of Curation Nation: How to Win in a World Where Consumers Are Creators, believes we will learn to navigate the new world with the help of other navigators. He wrote in The Huffington Post that we are living in “a world where abundance is assumed in the world
of content — there’s no shortage of content makers of all shapes and
sizes. But the avalanche of content makes finding the content you’re
looking for significantly harder.”
choosing to read a certain story or subscribe to a certain blog — and
letting others know that we “like” the stories and blogs — we are saving
time for those who trust us, according to Rosenbaum.
world of curation will have lots of brand-name, well-known curators you
know and trust,” Rosenbaum wrote. “The new media moguls won’t be
makers, they’ll be finders, endorsers and presenters.”
an interview, Rosenbaum adds: “Curious people will have more of an
opportunity to engage in curated and complex editorial mixes, and people
who define themselves as a political party, or an issue, or any other
narrow set of filters will embrace sources that don’t expose them to
alternative points of view.”
Still, the
problem remains: The news is coming at us so fast and furious, we don’t
always have time to be exposed to news we are not already interested in.
Our horizons may not be broadened by this onslaught but narrowed. And
it might become harder to experience serendipitous moments, those Holy
Cow! instances of discovery.
Gleick thinks
the solution is to adjust our speed when it comes to filtering the news.
Though everything is accelerating, “we aren’t going to invert the
space-time continuum,” he says. “We aren’t going to live our futures
ahead of our past. But we’re going to learn — we are already learning — that faster does not equal better.”
the point at which we seem to be getting tomorrow’s news today, Gleick
says, “we just need to wave a red flag. Tomorrow hasn’t come yet.”
Gleick adds, “Some things — and news is just one of them—are worth waiting for.”
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