The Reasonable Person Model (RPM, see previous posts) is a model of human nature predicated, in part, on our relationship with information and, more particularly, how our voracious human appetite for information affects our reasonableness. In a nutshell, as a species, we love information but our tendency to seek out and consume information drains our attentional capacities. The lack of our ability to direct our attention, which is difficult to self recognize at times, can be very obvious to others as it can make us very difficult to deal with. Depletion of this resource make us cranky, easily frustrated, impulsive, etc. In a word, unreasonable.
Of course, in the digital age, there is no shortage of information. The nature of our lives and workplaces is changing rapidly. One academic study at the University of California, San Diego,(Bohn,Short,"Measuring Consumer Information" International Journal of Communication 6 (2012)p. 980)found that in 2008, Americans consumed 1.3 trillion hours of information outside of work. They estimate this to mean approximately 12 hours per person a day. Media consumption was equivalent to 1080 trillion words which means approximately 100,500 words or 34 gigabytes for an average person on an average day. The RPM suggests that one source of unreasonable behaviour is just this situation I.e. the demands placed on our brains by our increasingly plugged in lives. A constant overload of information is contributing to a societal epidemic of unreasonable behaviour.
I was watching an episode of Bill Moyers recently during which he interviewed Sherry Turkle about her new book, Alone Together: Why We Expect More From Technology and Less from Each Other. Turkle also describes the human desire for information, she describes it as "a human vulnerability." She studies people's addiction to their electronic devices and studies how this is impacting - in a not so positive way- human relationships with ourselves and each other.
Turkle argues that we are losing the ability to connect as human beings. Her work is compelling and I have been thinking about her research in terms of conflict and conflict resolution. The consequences of the situation she describes - the current human preoccupation with relatively modern sources of information via our 'devices' (I am really oversimplifying here) - does not bode well for those concerned with peaceful human relations on the micro or macro scale.
If an overload of information is making us unreasonable and the nature of our relationship to this particular type of digital information is negatively impacting our capacity for human connection, such a situation does not bode well for how we as a species solve our problems. Just something to think about more...