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A World of Exponentially Increasing Information

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Welcome to the fourth blog in the The Stream Series, a selection of observations from the WPP Digital un-conference, Stream. Attended by Arianna Huffington and Roy Sekoff, the event -- Stream@Cannes -- brought together some of the best minds behind global brands, technology and media companies as well as start-ups to explore the ever expanding potential of digital creativity.

You can read the first three articles (David Sable, CEO Y&R on "Stories From the Blue," Thomas Gensemer Managing Partner, Blue State Digital on "Engagement, Advocacy, and Other Buzzwords," and Jonathan Mildenhall VP, Global Advertising Strategy and Creative Excellence, Coca-Cola Company on "A Stream of Ideas") here, here, and here.

Today we hear from Facebook's Paul Adams as he reflects on the day. To share your reactions and further ideas get in touch with the Stream Team or go to the Stream website.

Towards a world of exponentially increasing information, embedded in everything, filtered by our friends

Last week at Cannes Lions I had the honor of participating in Stream, a fantastic event run by WPP. Some of the brightest minds in the creative industry shared their perspectives on things they were passionate about. It was interesting to see a common theme emerge from multiple speakers -- namely that all manner of physical products will be embedded with digital technology and it will change how we interact with the world around us. The themes I spoke about were similar.

Thanks to the invention of the web and development of mobile technologies, we are witnessing an exponential increase in accessible information. Because many of us now have the web in our pocket, always turned on, we have the opportunity to share more of our lives with more and more people.

We see people choosing to publish more on a variety of services. We share what we're doing, what we're thinking, where we are, where we're going, what songs we're listening to, our photos, our favorite things ... the list goes on. This is helping people stay in touch with the people they care about the most, and helping them tell the stories of their lives.

We're also sharing what we know. Most of us remember having a set of 24 encyclopedias in our house growing up (There'd never be enough information for Q and X to fill entire books!). As a 10 year old, I remember looking at them and thinking that most of the world's information was inside those books. Now we have Wikipedia. If you tried to print Wikipedia, the number of books would be in the many thousands. On average, we're adding 1,000 new articles to Wikipedia every single day -- that doesn't include all the updates to existing articles.

Between sharing the details of our lives, and our knowledge and opinions on a range of topics, the volume of information we're collectively creating, publishing and recording is incomprehensible. And it's only increasing.

In a world of exponentially increasing information, people need ways to navigate the volume. The way we navigate this new world is, interestingly, the same way we have navigated the world since the beginning of humanity -- we are turning to our friends.

Sharing critical information with the people around us helped our species survive -- where to plant food, what animals to eat, where to get supplies, what merchants to trust. We are simply hard wired to ask our friends for advice.

It's also no surprise that as we build out a map of humanity online, people using their authentic identities, connecting with their real friends, and sharing content they genuinely care about, we're seeing a fundamental shift in the structure of the web. We're moving away from a web built around content, to a web built around people. One of the most common questions I get is "Paul, help me understand this social thing." I usually say, "Go home and chat with your friends and family!"

My point is that social is not new. Social networks have existed for as long as our species has. The web is only 20 years old and as a new media technology, it's relatively young. We're social animals and it was natural for the web to evolve and reflect that.

In the foreseeable future, we will be able to know just about everything on just about any topic, and thanks to the rise of mobile technology, this information will be available to us at any time. When this happens, the sheer volume is necessarily more than any single person can digest.

In order to manage a new world of vast amounts of content we will turn to the people we know and the sources we trust to help us filter and understand it. We will be able to know things like what products and businesses our friends prefer, how businesses interact with people we care about, and how much other people paid for goods. This will have a profound impact in businesses, large and small, which will now be more connected to their customers and to the world.

And just like they always have, our friends will be one of the largest influences on our purchase decisions and behavior.

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