The future is objects

My thinking around printing has arrived at an inevitable conclusion – distributing words and pictures (i.e. mass media) is redundant in print, but that physical / conceptual objects might offer a bright future by acting as an heuristic to more emotional experiences.

Since the dawn of humanity, communicating-with-objects has been one of the fundamental ways of disseminating ideas, power and civilisation. Ironically, the invention of printing and the subsequent birth of mass-media left objects for dead. In its place – and the absolute fundamental utility of printing – was the power of words and pictures as a means of expression. Ironically, it is the explosion of words and pictures as distributed by digital technology that is creating a very modern problem, one that the age-old means of objects-as-communication might actually solve.

For the first 540 years of the mass-media age, there was a relative equilibrium in supply and demand for information. Even in the TV heyday of the 60's and 70's, there was enough attention around to be satisfied by the media of the day – hence why we all saw the same ads, read the same news, bought the same products. Yet, since the invention of digital media, this balance is now broken. There is now far more media and information (words and pictures) than anyone could ever hope to digest. Attention is now the scarce commodity. 

I sent this deck to Rory Sutherland as I know he's interested in this sort of thing, and he pointed me to a perfectly concise summary by Herbert Simon, Grandfather of Behavioural Economics:

What information consumes is rather obvious: it consumes the attention of its recipients. Hence a wealth of information creates a poverty of attention, and a need to allocate that attention efficiently among the overabundance of information sources that might consume it.
Herbert Simon

The modern problem is that too much information asks people to think more, but makes people actually think less; it makes them more intuitive (system 1 biased, according to Daniel Kahneman). Intuition is a fast system that we understand as the feeling of something and in simple terms, we all conflate the feeling (physicality) of something with the feeling (emotion) of something.

Nevermind our tendency to refer to all manner of entities as things (but that's for another post)