Wednesday, December 9, 2009

One Explanation of the Flynn Effect

From the NYT's bits blog:
[T]he average American consumes 34 gigabytes of content and 100,000 words of information in a single day... This doesn’t mean we read 100,000 words a day — it means that 100,000 words cross our eyes and ears in a single 24-hour period. That information comes through various channels, including the television, radio, the Web, text messages and video games... [O]n average, most Americans consume 11.8 hours of information a day... Overall, from 1980 to 2008, the number of bytes we consume has increased 6 percent each year, the researchers said, adding up to a 350 percent increase over 28 years.
Given that most of us are only awake for 16-18 hours a day, it is hard to imagine adding more than 4-6 hours more of bit consumption per day. There have been recent suggestions that memories can be strengthened during sleep, but the effect sizes in that procedure are modest--an improvement in object placement accuracy from a deviation of 1.23 +/- 0.10 cm without the sound cues during sleep to 1.07 +/- 0.08 cm with them.

So, eventually the only way to increase our overall bit consumption will be to improve in its efficiency. And increasing efficiency of bit consumption probably means finding some method more efficient than reading. Of course, that's assuming that increasing overall bit consumption is a goal for many of us. And a preference utilitarian who looked at this massive increase in consumption would have to assume that it is. Actions speak louder than words.

(HT to Larry for the story)