We are getting smarter as a species by how much and how fast we consume content. Historically we have seen a continuous evolution of how we learn, how much we know, and how many of us know it. There is a natural hierarchy, from beginners who are still learning to read, to researchers and searchers of the web. – This hierarchy is directly impacting the level of world literacy because of the advancements in mode of information transportation and amount of content consumed. We can track this evidence historically through the types of technology offered.
How technology changed the way we consumed information
For example, 2500 years ago the Greeks became the second literate culture. By the 1400s our friend Johannes Gutenberg invented the printing press and the world change the way it acquired knowledge forever. At that time about 30 percent of European Adults were literate. It became the first technology disrupter to make it easy for groups of people to exchange ideas, independently and collectively. Before, it was limited to a small percent of people who used scrolls, art, and song to gain knowledge. The printing press dramatically propelled the masses from being doers to thinkers. By 1680ac, 33 million people could read and by the 1800s the momentum brought us to 55 million. No longer was the wealth of information meant for the privileged class but for all. We were getting smarter!
After the printing press our advancements grew dramatically. At the signing of the U.S. Constitution in 1787, nearly 60 percent of 3 million American adults could read but in the following 19th and 20th centuries, literacy rates in America grew rapidly. By 1870, almost 80 percent of 38.5 million Americans were literate and by 1940, almost 95 percent of 131 million citizens could read.
Today, technology continues to develop our ability to learn and exchange information. We are faster at it than ever before, and latest studies show the evidence. In 2008, UNESCO reported that 98 percent of American adults could read. Nearly 294 million Americans of about 300 million are literate and most children can read by the time they’re six or seven. According to the Census Bureau, 25-34 year-olds are now the best-educated group of Americans: nearly 58 percent have some college education, and almost 27 percent have a bachelor’s degree or more.
Globally we are clearly getting smarter and you can see the evidence in all regions of the world over the last century. See Figures 1 and 2.
So why should this matter, why should I care?
Since the invention of the internet, we have seen the world’s ability to know more skyrocket. We are learning and sharing ideas faster than ever. In 2000 there were more than 300 million people using the internet by 2010 that number soared to an astonishing 1.9 billion people.
How the internet is affecting the demand to know more now
We are intellectually growing as a species faster than any other time in human history and it’s because of the internet. In nearly 20 years we went from less than 1% connected to the web, to 40% of the world’s population searching Google and other search engines. The number of internet users increased tenfold from 1999 to 2013. The first billion was reached in 2005. The second billion in 2010 and the third billion will be reached in 2014. That’s 3 billion people all connected, all sharing ideas. And to give you some context to how staggering this number is there are about 7 billion people on earth. What we have accomplished in 20 years is amazing.
But it’s not just the mode of transportation that’s creating this instant need. There are other factors that are reducing the amount of content needed while decreasing the expectation of how much information we should read. Social networking sites like Facebook, Twitter, Youtube, and more are changing our habits and creating a new demand for faster understandings.
How social networks created the “Now” factor
Along with social networks, going mobile catapulted the next wave of how we consume information. It turned people’s “faster” need, into the “now” need. When we reduced screen size we lost the ability to offer hundreds of lines of text to read. At first, we reinvented the structure of paragraphs and made our U.I’s more image-centric but the demand for instant answers was not being answered.
How much content do people read on a page?
On the average web page, users read at most 28% of the words during a website visit, yet we expect them to know 100%. People rarely read web pages word by word; instead, they scan the page, picking out individual words and sentences. As a result, web pages have to employ scannable text, using highlighted keywords, meaningful sub-headings, and bulleted lists of one idea per paragraph. What we have found is most users will skip over any additional ideas if they are not caught by the first few words in the paragraph. With less content being read, more people want instant answers.
For those with heavy pages of content, products, and services- usability is more difficult. We see this evidence from the growing trend of people using search bars or asking customer support centers for what they want, expecting an instant exact answer.
Why the common CRM is no longer effective
To act as a solution people have reinvented the customer support model to fit online. There are hundreds of companies who focus on using people to deliver answers to their community with online tools. But the reality is there is far more information then there are people, and that is why these companies who use CRM platforms have such high ticket traffic. We are asking both agents and the customers to use the same search technology to find answers in the content. Each day a new customer and the same agents answer the same questions, over and over again. Each time a company creates new content, products, or services more redundant unanswered questions come, and the more demand is pressured on customer support.
So what is the solution?
As we said in the beginning, those who stay ahead of the information exchange and use innovating technology to make it easier for people to get answers will win. This is why technology like artificial intelligence is picking up steam because it’s answering this fundamental pain – Why should people be forced to read large amounts of content if all they have to do is ask a question?
All of those sci-fi movies where people talk to computers is happening. We all want to read less, but know more. This is where new companies are breaking ground in A.I., semantic search, and interactive information exchange. Companies like Inbenta are focused on using A.I. technology like our advanced semantic search engine to answer people’s questions before the contact support. This technology focuses on how people use natural language, or the way we commonly talk and ask questions to each other. For Inbenta, we want to create a similar exchange with machines the same way we do with each other.
With this type of technology companies who run e-commerce websites will change the way customer support is done. This new customer support model helps companies embrace an “answers first, customer support second”, system. There is less work done by the customer support team and more work done by a machine that is interacting with people naturally and real.
Offering technology that can find the right answers before humans do will change the rate of information exchange from 24 hours to instantly. Connecting tools like avatars and virtual assistants to a semantic search engine and self-service tools will provide an intelligent intuitive and interactive experience that can be personal and immediate in responses.
We have come along way in how we digest content and create new ideas. We will continue to advance how we interact with people and how this interaction effects the way we make choices. For people, they will experience more with less work in the content they have to read. For companies that conduct businesses, it means less time explaining in paragraphs and more focus on building interactive relationships that grow their businesses, their communities and provide instant results.