The Speed of Information

Kottke: The speed of information travel, 1798 – 2009

The included link is chart showing the time it took for news of various events to reach London, and the resulting speed of that information. Kottke adds a couple of present-day data points to that.

[W]e’re not accustomed to news taking days or even hours to go around the world now, and even when reading history you usually get the impression that events were known immediately. (The dramatic speeding up of news reports around 1880 was a result of the invention and deployment of the telegraph.)

Certainly anyone growing up now, with access to twitter and the like, will have some difficulty appreciating this.

I think it’s easy to forget that it also takes time to gather information, especially for complex events. We have virtually instant access these days with electronic communication, but instant access to what? You can tell me that X happened, but then there’s a whole lot of dead air to fill while you figure out what the details were, and we shouldn’t forget that bad information travels just as fast.