Thursday, February 15, 2007

The third desire

There are three things we need each day to survive: food, sleep and... information.

While the way we consume the first two hasn't changed much over time, our way of receiving the latter has been revolutionised.

Unlike food or sleep, there is an insatiable appetite for information.

With each passing day our demand for information grows. We just can't seem to get enough of it.

Luckily, people are being more generous with information of their own (personal web-sites, blogs, online chatting, online dating, free newspapers, reports etc.)

You give a little, you get a lot.


Together with a surge in the supply of information has come the call for greater transparency.

We don't just want to have more information, we want to know information we weren't allowed to know before.

While there is no limit to the information we want, there will always be a limit to the information we are given.

This disparity has shrunk over the past quarter of a century, mainly due to the spread of the internet.

But the more things have changed, the more they have stayed the same.

Much like other freedoms we haven't done anything to earn, it's not immediately clear exactly how we should use this new information.

It's like telling a farmer in the 19th century about the internet. He wouldn't neither be able, nor know how best, to use it.


When I read about a leaked government memo or the minutes of a central bank meeting there is information contained in those reports that would never have been made available to the public 50 years ago.

It is easy to forget that the actions of our not-so-distant past generations have had such a profound effect on the way we live our lives today

It is difficult for someone who is 20 years old to understand why they are able to read something their parents' generation never had the right to do and more importantly how best to use this additional information.