Aural information density

2016-02-27 2 min read

    Whenever I watch some online lectures or listen to a podcast one of the first things I do is change the speed to either 1.5x or 2x the original. Sometimes I’ll have to skip back or reduce it back to the normal speed but for the most part this approach saves me tons of time and I like to think that I absorb the same amount of information. But the fact that I can absorb and process information at twice the speed makes me wonder how much more productive I’d be if every conversation I had occured at twice the speed. Is there some physiological reason we don’t speak at twice the speed? Is there a cultural factor? Does this information density vary based on language?

    We can train ourselves to get faster and faster at processing aural information but there must be some limit and I suspect there’s a wide range in the information density of various languages. If this is the case I wonder if there’s some conclusion that can be drawn about that culture or society. Most likely the bottleneck is on the transmission side - the effort to produce language is more than listening and it requires both our brains to form thoughts and our mouths to turn them into sounds which are the limiting reagent.