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Hewlett-Packard Discover Conference Answers: Can We Handle Information Overload?

Phones, tablets, and laptops aren’t the only products streaming information anymore; watches, bracelets, glasses, and other wearables are becoming information platforms as well. So how do we cope with this inundation of data? The CEOs of Hewlett-Packard, Microsoft, and Intel all attempted to answer this question during the HP Discover conference.

hp-dicover-krzanich-nadella-whitmanAgainst the backdrop of HP’s new project, The Machine, was a panel discussion of the excess of information due to the expanding list of product categories. Journalist and Pulitzer Prize winning author Thomas Friedman opened the panel discussion with the question, “What [will] historians a hundred years from now, when they look back at this era…and they ask, ‘What was the most important thing happening in the early 21st century?’…what will they say?” Friedman, in answer to his own question, went on to state what he believes will be said about this time in history:

“[I]n the early 21st century, thanks in part to companies like HP and Microsoft and Intel, something really big happened. And it was the merger of globalization and the IT revolution. They really started to fuse more and more IT, drove more and more globalization, and more and more globalization drove the diffusion of more and more IT to a…tipping point where the world went from connected to hyperconnected.”

This was the path of the panel discussion. What are we going to do about this hyperconnectivity? What are we going to do about this excess of information and knowledge? Because the big issue is that consumers and companies alike don’t want “more extraneous data on top of the already-high data loads that many of us deal with daily.” Information needs to be concise, relevant, and easy to process. Many companies place the most importance on the amount of devices, the amount of information, and always the assumption is that more is better. But, as HP president and CEO Meg Whitman put it, “I wonder if…the human brain and our emotional state can actually sustain this? I feel a lot more stressed than I did 10 years ago because I’m always on. This is probably not a good thing.” Even Intel CEO Brian Krzanich and Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella admitted that the amount of information available is overwhelming.

These companies are trying to find solutions to curtail information overload. Nadella posited that the answer was to “streamline the growing stack of data feeds that can potentially lead to overload.” The key is to provide not more information but better information. Another piece of the solution is to make devices and software more efficient and more personalized.

In the end, though solutions to information overload are being discussed, this question still remains: can we really handle more information?

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