Nick Ang

Human download speed

This is 2016 - our phones receive and send data packets by the megabytes per second, simultaneously. Sometimes I imagine seeing lines of data shooting across in front of me, crisscrossing into multi coloured highways. So much data is moving so quickly it would indeed be a spectacular sight. 

But here’s the thing - the human brain still chugs along at the same pace as the earliest telephone dialled internet connection. OK maybe not exactly the same but the analogy is easy to understand. We, people, download information excruciatingly slow. 

Deciding to read a book can feel almost like choosing a partner to spend the rest of your life with, because it entails 30-40 hours of reading time. And reading time is only reading time. Nobody I know (yet) is able to read a book, following what’s the story while doing something as simple drafting email. We’re single threaded processors as far as I know. 

Knowing this, what can we do? 

Acknowledge it and plan accordingly. And save up money in case bio-digital brains become available in my lifetime. 

It’s a constraint that I have no doubt humanity will surpass soon enough. Maybe when I’m about 65. For now, it’s a limitation we have to live with. If it helps, think about what some great people have achieved in their lives while possessing (and processing with) the same brain as yours. A lot can still be done. 

Perhaps things will go awry when we board the bullet train to ever accelerating download speeds. Like not being able to ever voluntarily nap because every second of sleeping is terabytes of knowledge not downloaded and written to memory. 

I don’t know about you, but I like being able to take my time to learn something. Of course, that’s only true because everyone else can only go so fast…

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