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Education The Internet

Knowledge Overload or Internet Lazy? 154

Dareth writes "Are we being overloaded by knowledge? Is the number of sources growing faster than we can keep up with them? These questions are posed by this article in USA Todays's tech section The article seems to suggest we need 'better technology to cope with the problems better technology creates.'" From the article: "With a generation growing up expecting everything on the Internet, libraries, non-profit organizations and leading search companies like Yahoo and Microsoft are committing hundreds of millions of dollars collectively to scan books and other printed materials so they can be indexed and retrieved online. HarperCollins Publishers even announced plans in mid-December to digitize its vast catalog."
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Knowledge Overload or Internet Lazy?

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  • by dada21 ( 163177 ) * <adam.dada@gmail.com> on Saturday December 31, 2005 @08:52PM (#14372587) Homepage Journal
    I think having all this information at our finger tips can be a boon -- giving us more time to focus on discovery and research and development. I'm always amazed and what information bubbles to the top of Google searches (other than the obvious SEO attempts).

    I was blessed with a terribly short memory from a very young age, but along with it came the ability to assimilate and aggregate seemingly different items together, and do so quickly. My bad memory led to VERY low grades but very high aptitude testing -- quite a conundrum. I took to BBSes and other forms of "instant variable information" quickly at a very young age, and when the Internet hit (mostly gopher at that time, from what I recall), I absorbed it immediately.

    I don't think knowledge overload is necessarily a bad thing -- it is how you use the knowledge that allows us to make the "morality" consideration. It is the old "did the gun or the shooter kill?" debate, and one that I think may be one-sided when it comes to slashdot: many of us make our livings either by manipulating information for others, or by helping others get to that information.

    I can think of many reasons why this information overload is positive, but I can also see how it can become a crutch for some. I have Google everywhere I go (WAP, SMS, HTML) and it is definitely a huge help in so many ways, but it also allows my already bad short term memory to not get the exercise it needs. While I feel I am much smarter at what I was always good at, I have probably become way dumber in what I wasn't strong in. Even the wife acknowledges my memory is worse now than it was 10 years ago (short term that is, my long term memory is very solid).

    Some days I wonder if my memory problems might have been FROM an early introduction to the PC. When I was 4 I touched my first keyboard and quickly adjusted to using a keyboard over using a pencil (around 6 years). This is about 25 years ago. Is what I have more like the ADD that today's youths seems to all have, and do they have ADD because of the early introduction to knowledge overload? Do short attention spans possibly come from our 60-75hz gods?

    It will be interesting to see who from the next generation holds true to the old information forms: pencil, paper, book, memory lessons.
    • I was blessed with a terribly short memory from a very young age, but along with it came the ability to assimilate and aggregate seemingly different items together, and do so quickly. My bad memory led to VERY low grades but very high aptitude testing -- quite a conundrum. I took to BBSes and other forms of "instant variable information" quickly at a very young age, and when the Internet hit (mostly gopher at that time, from what I recall), I absorbed it immediately.
      I was talking with someone just yesterday about knowledge. It seems to me that what is far more important than storing a bunch of facts in the brain, is storing the methods and means by which one can find those facts. For example -- if you memorized the population of Angola in high school 20 years ago, that's a useless waste of brain space because the answer changes from year to year and more importantly, because that data can be retrieved from various sources without taxing your personal resources (brain).

      Now, before the internet, you would have to be familiar with librarys and card catalogs -- learning how to use those efficiently would have been of much greater value than memorizing a bunch of discrete facts. Today, the internet can provide a great deal of information in the same way, and learning how to navigate it through search tools is far more valuable than the individual bits of information a search turns up.

      I think the whole "information overload" thing boils down to a lot of people who didn't learn "how to learn". If you learned how to discover new information in the most general sense, and on your own, the internet is not a source of frustration or overload -- it's a repository of all those things it doesn't make sense to store in your head. For people who need to be spoon fed every fact -- heck yeah, they'll be overloaded, but so what?

      As to the parent poster -- don't chide yourself for being smart. It's smart to store only that information which you need immediately locally (and by locally I mean in your brain). Everything else belongs in an external but accessible database.
      • by servognome ( 738846 ) on Saturday December 31, 2005 @10:27PM (#14372867)
        I think the whole "information overload" thing boils down to a lot of people who didn't learn "how to learn". If you learned how to discover new information in the most general sense, and on your own, the internet is not a source of frustration or overload -- it's a repository of all those things it doesn't make sense to store in your head. For people who need to be spoon fed every fact -- heck yeah, they'll be overloaded, but so what?

        I agree, further this is a generational thing. Children typically don't suffer from information overload because they learn how to best utilize the tools at their disposal. Growing up they have a base of experience on how to prioritize and maximize information. This is most evident in the use of technology, as it changes so quickly. They demonstrate greater productivity because they aren't constrained by how things used to be.
        For example while older people are used to just calling for all situations, children have learned to maximize the text message function. Instead of calling 5 people for a get together, they just send out a message to all 5. They even develop a text message language for faster communication, which would mystify those not familar with it.
        • Text messaging is a horrible example here as a service. I'd rather send out invitations using myspace or some other free service (email). Phone calls have a nice personal touch and can be much more persuasive in getting people to an organized meeting (and are usually free to your friends on the same service.)

        • For example while older people are used to just calling for all situations, children have learned to maximize the text message function. Instead of calling 5 people for a get together, they just send out a message to all 5. They even develop a text message language for faster communication, which would mystify those not familar with it.

          This is a joke, right?

      • Learning how to use information is half the battle. Along with the ability to sort, store and search we also need the ability to synthesize. Masses of random facts are good for trivia games but little else.
      • Now, before the internet, you would have to be familiar with librarys and card catalogs -- learning how to use those efficiently would have been of much greater value than memorizing a bunch of discrete facts. Today, the internet can provide a great deal of information in the same way, and learning how to navigate it through search tools is far more valuable than the individual bits of information a search turns up.

        No, the only major difference today is that card catalogs are becoming obsolete, because li

      • Now, before the internet, you would have to be familiar with librarys and card catalogs -- learning how to use those efficiently would have been of much greater value than memorizing a bunch of discrete facts.

        But of course you have to trust the methods by which you get that info. E. g. Google is now in a position where they will sorely be tempted to bend their results toward commercial interests. Hopefully, they will not give in. However, even having said that, who is to say their results provide the mos


      • On the other hand, there are now so many more ways to access information that it is not surprising to hear that some people are feeling overloaded.

        I agree that it is now very much important to teach how to learn, rather than just rote learning. By that I don't mean how to learn the latest software packages.
      • anagama: " ... a lot of people didn't learn "how to learn" ... " It may be that technology changes "how to learn" so fast, that we need to relearn "how to learn" over and over, faster and faster. So many may be stumbling over "how to learn how to learn"
    • When intellect is measured with tests that rely on unassisted recall, a person with certain abilities but poor recall is measured low. Since real problems are not solved in this same atmosphere, it is more a fault of the measurement than a weakness of the intellect.

      To me, it is not surprising that memory/recall (a low-grade intellectual function) is early to be automated by machine. Does that not give some insight into what rank we should give memory?

      To quote Nietzsche: "Many a man fails to become a thi

    • by thegrassyknowl ( 762218 ) on Saturday December 31, 2005 @11:51PM (#14373027)

      Some days I wonder if my memory problems might have been FROM an early introduction to the PC. When I was 4 I touched my first keyboard and quickly adjusted to using a keyboard over using a pencil (around 6 years). This is about 25 years ago. Is what I have more like the ADD that today's youths seems to all have, and do they have ADD because of the early introduction to knowledge overload? Do short attention spans possibly come from our 60-75hz gods?

      I find that the younger generation can't ADD (with the + sign) unless they have a computer or calculator handy. Ask them to add two wierd numbers (127 and 67, for example) and see how long it takes to get an answer without letting them use a calculator or their computer (hint, you'll be waiting until the devil skates to work).

      I got my first computer at about 3 or 4 as well; a C64. I went through school at the time when using a computer in school was considered a treat. In primary school it was less than an hour a week at school (except for the special class I did once a week which was an hour of extra-curricular programming activities that was organised by the school for a few of us with exceptional computing skills).

      In high school it was only a couple of hours a week in school that we were allowed to use the computers. Basic typing and computer skills were all that were taught (boooooorrrrring to someone who had advanced C knowledge by the time they were 13). There was also diversity in the platform, with some DOS PCs, some Windows PCs and some BBC micros (my fav game ever was on the BBC but i can't remember the damned name of it), Microbees, Commodore 64s, etc. These days it's all Windows PCs everywhere so the students aren't even learning how to think about what they're doing; they're just learning "click here, drag there".

      I think that in the current generation memory problems and total lack of basic skills like handwriting and mathematics are lacking. It's all to do with the gotta-be-online nature of the world these days.

      • First time I've seen ADD and math put together like that, but in fact it makes sense (pull your foot back outta your mouth before you develop a taste for toe-jam :)

        What with the newfangled teaching methods where everything has to be "fun", and the focus on "learning through computers", we've raised an amazingly ignorant generation.

        I've noticed that computer-based education doesn't focus on learning skills; it focuses on getting the computer to do the work for you. So kids learn how to input numbers into Cal
    • Your memory problems are not necessarily from an early intro to the PC. It may just be how your mind works. I have always had difficulty with short-term memory and I am too old to have grown up with the PC. I'm 47 and when I was in high school, they were arguing over whether to allow us to use a calculator in chemistry class or if we had to learn the slide rule. PCs did not come along until much later after that. I didn't have low grades, though, maybe because I had enough smarts in other areas to offset th

    • Some days I wonder if my memory problems might have been FROM an early introduction to the PC. When I was 4 I touched my first keyboard and quickly adjusted to using a keyboard over using a pencil (around 6 years). This is about 25 years ago. Is what I have more like the ADD that today's youths seems to all have, and do they have ADD because of the early introduction to knowledge overload? Do short attention spans possibly come from our 60-75hz gods?


      If so, I wonder how much of a disadvantage it would be. It
    • by pipingguy ( 566974 ) on Sunday January 01, 2006 @10:55AM (#14374162) Homepage

      Even the wife acknowledges my memory is worse now than it was 10 years ago

      I'm going to assume by that that you mean *your* wife. If this is the case, don't bother to go looking for other reasons for your loss of short-term memory. Dishonestly responding, "no" to the question, "Do I look fat in this?" 20,000 times not only undermines one's credibility (due to forced living in a fantasy world), it also leads to early senility (due to your brain overloading the truth/error correction circuit).
  • Guns? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by conner_bw ( 120497 ) on Saturday December 31, 2005 @08:52PM (#14372589) Journal
    Information doesn't overload, people do.

    For example, the same information about a disease can influence both a doctor and a hypochondriac very differently. Knowing more doesn't necessarily help the hypochondriac.

    You're only overloaded by knowledge to the depth that you can handle knowing.

    • I clicked this post thinking there would be something about guns ... but much to my disappointment there were none. Thanks for ruining my New Years Eve!
    • From recent personal experience, there are two major ways we absorb data - intellectual and intuitive.

      The intellectual approach allows you to carefully weigh the data on relevance, sources, and cross-references, allowing you to absorb information, and improve your knowledge. It's the approach everyone claims to aspire to, as you might then be able to put it into practice, and gain wisdom. But it's time-consuming, and without discipline can lead to a never-ending pyramid of learning (oh, the shame).

      The i

    • Or a different twist... "scientific" information about a disease from a ("research hospital") doctor and a ("revolutionary new drug") drug company are trusted equally poorly. There is a ton of information out there of questionable value in everything from the impossible politics to what ought to be pretty solid science. No one has time to go to the primary sources to get the information, even assuming primary sources are out there with proper references in a language that is accessible to anyone outside of
    • I would call what you're referring to intelligence overload :)

      Information overload, to me, is simple having too much information to study in a given time. In other words, even if you can understand all of the information, there is simply too much to keep track of.

      The problem here is that information on websites is infinite, not that the information is particularly complex. For example, I have RSS feeds from about 40 websites, along with personal emails and mailing list emails to keep track of. I just

  • Urgh? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by cloudkj ( 685320 ) on Saturday December 31, 2005 @08:54PM (#14372596)
    leading search companies like Yahoo and Microsoft

    When did Microsoft become a leading search company? And where's Google, A9, et al?
  • Or.. (Score:5, Funny)

    by Bananatree3 ( 872975 ) * on Saturday December 31, 2005 @08:54PM (#14372597)
    You could say the heck with it all, join the Amish community and say the electron doesn't exist.
    • Re:Or.. (Score:2, Funny)

      by Anonymous Coward
      For the record, the Amish community knows about the electron but CHOOSES not to have much to do with it.
    • by cutecub ( 136606 ) on Saturday December 31, 2005 @10:58PM (#14372928)
      The Amish are typically looked down upon as ludites or anti-intellectuals, especially with regards to technology.

      The reality is more complicated. Basically, that they simply have different values than most urban Americans.

      They refuse to allow technology to intrude into the parts of their life which they value the most: Eg: personal relationships.

      Many Amish sects actually allow the use of telephones, but not in the home. Several homes will sometimes share a telephone housed outside in a small kiosk the same way that several houses may have a common location for their mail boxes.

      The tendency, when faced with new technologies, is for the Amish to wait a good long time to see the effects of the technology on the larger society, and then make a decision as to whether to allow it into their towns.

      That may be viewed as being very conservative, but its certainly not crazy or stupid.

    • The Amish know all about electricity, cars, etc. They don't use them because they feel it would take them away from their family. They place more emphasis on interpersonal relationships and communication than others. Heck they speak at least 3 languages by the time they are out of school.
      Those going through the "wild phase" when they are 16? Are even allowed to have a car. After that age the kid has to decide for himself whether to adopt the lifestyle of his parents or go out into the world and fend
      • Don't the Amish pretty much stick to themselves? They sure wouldn't need 3 languages.
        • Re:Or.. (Score:3, Informative)

          by Darthmalt ( 775250 )
          They dont need it but they do. I know they can speak English, Latin, and German. Latin and english are obvious and German because I believe they are descended from german / Dutch immigrants.
  • by peculiarmethod ( 301094 ) on Saturday December 31, 2005 @08:54PM (#14372598) Journal
    "It may take better technology to cope with the problems better technology creates."

    Nah, that logic is all screwed up. We obviously need to engineer and release silicon eating rats to control the ever dispersing technology, and rat eating cats, then cat eating dogs, and finally, open a lot of vietnamese restraunts everywhere technology was over-taking everyday human existance.
  • Information mutates or spreads like virus. Somehow all these newspapers should be punished who print the same story with only slight changes. When will we see something like F-secure for the news?

    A good quote from TFA : "The library is daunting because I have to go there and everything is organized by academic area," Quaranta said. "I don't even know where to begin."
  • On the contrary (Score:5, Interesting)

    by arrrrg ( 902404 ) on Saturday December 31, 2005 @09:00PM (#14372614)
    By this point, I think availability is growing faster than the body of useful knowledge. Even if the total amount of available information has doubled in the last 20 years, new search technologies make it 1000 times faster to find what you want (approximately, of course). While TFA talks about emerging technologies like del.ico.us and personalized search, I think the real boom is still to come, in the form of real AI.

    When computers are fast enough and new algorithms are developed to really harness this power (I give it 10 years, give or take, for this to begin), computers will finally be able to at least have the semblance of understanding the body of knowledge rather than just syntactically sifting through it. This will give us another order of magnitude change comparable to the introduction of search technologies in the first place. Imagine being able to ask google "in one paragraph, summarize the most influential inventions of 2015". Not the most interesting or illuminating example, but you get the idea.
    • Imagine being able to ask google "in one paragraph, summarize the most influential inventions of 2015". Not the most interesting or illuminating example, but you get the idea.
      user: in one paragraph, summarize the most influential inventions of 2015
      google: my AI.
    • Re:On the contrary (Score:4, Insightful)

      by 0xC0FFEE ( 763100 ) on Saturday December 31, 2005 @09:47PM (#14372769)
      I think the real boom is still to come, in the form of real AI.

      Of course. In the meantime, software will become more powerful but the human element will still be required. In the same way you work for the boss but the boss still decides what you have to do... It's an organizational problem where the most useful allocation of ressources is to have the guy (or the thingy) with the overall "vision of what to do" to have the power to control the process of whatever is to accomplished.

      Now, most of the time it is humans that are in this position. Still, things are starting to change however. Look at Google's ad program where their system regulates and optimizes the bidding process. Another example, circulation lights control the flow of traffic. The tendancy is to ever improving ressource allocations. Systems already control our behavior, be them mechanistic, legal or whatever. You would be a bit late to start complaining about that. Or maybe you're an anarchist at heart but never realized it. But make no mistake, modern society is a big organizational construct and unless you're not part of it, you're controlled in some way. What I'm saying is that, by design, (for most of us anyway) someone or something always has the upper hand on us. We're never completely free. This won't change, the level of control probably won't change much even. What's enforcing some of the actual organizational forces may change to be more automatized, but the net effect on your quality of life will be no worst than nil.

      Now, suppose that true AI is developed, what will it change for us? Unless the AI is sentient and aspires to higher things (Equality, Justice, Happiness even) it is no more than a part of the organizational construct. This means several things. First that its current position in the societal scheme of things evolved to the current situation and that things are at a relatively stable equilibrium. Second, that the AI has a purpose, is accepted by the rest of the construct and has proven reliable. This might be utopic on my parts, but anything without a minimum usefulness is quickly discarded. On the other hand, things and processes that exist today have evolved over time, over many generations, with improvement being made along the way. The integration of those things and processes is a kind of co-evolution where acceptance redefines and precises the needs we have toward that thing or process. I can't see how AI or Magic or God is going to change this anytime soon, or ever.

      Wow, end of year rant

      • 0xC0FFEE: " ... The tendancy is to ever improving ressource allocations. ... " No offence, but that sounds very Marxist (or something like Marxist) to me. My (closet) hope is that a more fundamental tendency is toward maximizing liberty throughout modern society ...
    • Imagine being able to ask google "in one paragraph, summarize the most influential inventions of 2015"

      And get back a list of subjective results. This is the problem. All of the results to this, and the gazillions of queries like it, are subjective. Who should decided what the most influential inventions of 2015 are?

      When the day comes that we're relying on a machine to tell us what the most influential invention or whatnot is I am definitely moving to my cave!!!

      Humans are already experiencing a har


    • new search technologies make it 1000 times faster to find what you want (approximately, of course)

      Screw that, this is the digital age! I want *exact* approximations!
    • Google Q&A is an early attempt at this:

      http://googleblog.blogspot.com/2005/04/just-facts- fast.html [blogspot.com]

      Knowledge extraction from the Web. Incredibly hard, but if anyone has the data and computational power to do it, Google does.
  • by Anonymous Coward
    ...it might as well not exist.

    Like it or not, that statement is fast becoming reality. Adapt or die.
  • History (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Philomathie ( 937829 ) on Saturday December 31, 2005 @09:01PM (#14372621)
    There has always been more information than one human can ever access, I think it is great that technology has given us search engines to allows us to find what we want nearly instantly, and not have to spend our whole lives reading vast librarys of books and never find what we were looking for.
    • and when the apocolypse comes, how shall we rebuild? This raises two interesting
      questions - a) the survivability of the record of knowledge and b) the ability to
      recreate it. It seems now people are either extremely specialized (ie nano engrs.)
      or so general as not to matter (think service economy workers/facilitators). Could
      we really rebuild from a major calamity, or would much technology be lost? Luckily
      there is a lot of redundancy in the system but I've always wondered if the
      government doesn't
    • One danger to learning only what we want to learn is that we learn only what we want to learn ...
  • There has been more information known to humans collectively than a single human can grok for literally thousands of years. The web hasn't changed that in any significant way, except to make things easier since you can find the knowledge you want much easier now than before search engines and web ubiquity.

  • Overload? (Score:5, Funny)

    by drdanny_orig ( 585847 ) * on Saturday December 31, 2005 @09:10PM (#14372650)
    I gotta believe that it takes very little information to overload the average reader of USA Today.
  • by dangitman ( 862676 ) on Saturday December 31, 2005 @09:13PM (#14372659)
    It's a feature, not a bug. HarperCollins should change their name to HyperCollins, and include a free sachet of insant coffee or methamphetamine with each book.
  • Sounds like a call for AI if I've ever heard one...

    I, for one, have long coveted my own personal librarian.

  • by MMaestro ( 585010 ) on Saturday December 31, 2005 @09:17PM (#14372676)
    People have always experienced knowledge overloads as far back as knowledge has been collected. How many people know the names, dates and locations of every major military battle of the 20th century? 19th century? 18th century? What about famous authors? Famous poets? Can you recite the dates every U.S. president died on? This is not science either, this is just history and English/Literature knowledge.

    And then there are other more complex/obscure fields of knowledge: medicine, physics, engineering, the occult, computers, magnets, plastics, metals, law, government, the list goes on. Overload or Lazy?

  • Required Reading (Score:4, Informative)

    by Quirk ( 36086 ) on Saturday December 31, 2005 @09:19PM (#14372679) Homepage Journal
    Luria, A. R., the great Russian psychologist, wrote of memory and information overload in his widely known book The Mind of a Mnemonist [nyu.edu].

    The vast number of factors necessary to fathomable answers to the questions..."Are we being overloaded by knowledge? Is the number of sources growing faster than we can keep up with them?", are such that they point out the flaws inherent in the questions asked.

  • I just started theorizing a short while back on the idea that American social/political conflicts stem partially from too much information being available; there are so many differing opinions available, and so little available criticism of each, that we find it difficult to analyze it properly. When you compound this with the inherit laziness of Americans in certain populaces (backwater hick towns, for example), a huge problem begins to rear it's head, and begets conflict.

    It is great to have it so readily available to us, and that we are free to share our own, but breaking down the information in order to determine it's validity becomes an incredible chore due to the sheer amount of conflicting opinions.

  • by Weatherman-au ( 572907 ) * on Saturday December 31, 2005 @09:23PM (#14372689) Homepage
    I believe knowledge or information overload is a very real phenomenon. Basically it's just sensory overload of a different kind, right?

    I live in Tokyo these days, and one of the more striking differences between the cityscape here and the one in my home city in Australia is the sheer number of advertising signs, shills, lights, boards, posters, flags and projections. Oh, and ten times as many are illuminated as I'm used to.

    Now while the point of all this advertising is supposed to be that it catches your eye, in this case it's having the opposite effect -- I just tune out. Not just the advertising either -- I mean literally what's going on around me.

    When I first arrived in Tokyo I played well the part of the wide-eyed tourist. Little escaped my attention. But these days I'm more likely to just pop in the headphones of my MD player and scuttle along to work while trying hard to see as little as possible.

    I'm not the only one. One of my co-workers, a lady from the U.S., and I were discussing this recently. She mentioned that these days, she notices much less of what she used to. "I stopped on the footpath yesterday and just looked around, and was surpised to see all this stuff that I've just been walking past everyday!"

    Same thing applies to information on the internet or wherever it's located. Eventually you have to start filtering out the chaff. Problem is that often a lot of wheat goes with it.
    • Now, I cannot tell the reason why this has score zero, but on the face of it is an interesting story.

      Maybe the shops could sue for loss of customers because the billboards overload the people passing by so that they don't see the shops ;-)

    • I live in Tokyo these days, and one of the more striking differences between the cityscape here and the one in my home city in Australia is the sheer number of advertising signs, shills, lights, boards, posters, flags and projections

      That's pretty common for most big cities, you learn to tune it all out (of course, the marketing PhD's will try to convince you that you are actually being subtly persuaded by all this in order to justify their salaries).
  • Look at the mainstream press and the mainstream commercial "news outlets" and compare them with all the varied sources of information on the net. You will find that most the big news media corporations (and there is, in reality, only a handful of them today even though all of them have a bundle of "different" media) and you will find that all of them are like clones who all parrot the party line and give little or no diversity. There may be too much varied information on the net, but the "voting system" whe
  • oh, please (Score:5, Insightful)

    by misanthrope101 ( 253915 ) on Saturday December 31, 2005 @09:25PM (#14372695)
    Try growing up in a small town, hours from a decent library or bookstore, in an age with no internet, no Amazon.com, no Project Gutenberg. The local library had no electronic databases, not even a searchable card catalog. It was hell for a kid curious about just about everything. I was reduced to reading Reader's Digest. Reader's Digest, for the love of God! The horror, the horror!

    There is no such thing as information overload. All you have to do is narrow your search, or re-evaluate what you thought you were looking for. Because the tools are more powerful, they require more thought to use effectively. Not an astounding surprise there.

    This affected concern over "information overload" is ridiculous. Accessibility is a good thing. Being able to sit in your home late at night, hours from a decent library, and search Jstor or similar online resources is an amazing advance over where we were 20 years ago. True, we didn't know there was so much information out there, and we have to learn to use more specific search terms. Big flipping deal. This is like saying electric lights have created new problems because now people are staying up later. I'm usually ambivalent about just about everything, but information accessibility is like Schindler's list - it's an absolute good.

    Now, if you want to discuss government and business collecting/abusing personal information, then we can talk. I'm referring to literature, financial data, legislation, etc, not forbidden political views.

    • There is no such thing as information overload. All you have to do is narrow your search, or re-evaluate what you thought you were looking for. Because the tools are more powerful, they require more thought to use effectively. Not an astounding surprise there.

      Suppose you're not looking for something narrow, but instead what a summary of the state of a debate on an issue, at a particular level of detail. The problem is that the strong points of each side of a debate are either (1), diffusely spread (ove

      • What is needed is an online forum which provides both a permanent memory of the state of various debates, which is able to present the debate at multiple levels of detail, and which forces the various perspectives on the issue under debate to face off point by point so that weak and irrelevent points are exposed and forced out.

        What seems like weak and irrelevant points to one side will be considered cogent and insightful by the other. The discussion pages on Wikipedia are fascinating, because the way a

        • What seems like weak and irrelevant points to one side will be considered cogent and insightful by the other.

          True, but the truth and relevenency of a point is best tested when the point is isolated, and a rebutal printed directly alongside.

          The discussion pages on Wikipedia are fascinating, because the way a seemingly simple sentence is phrased can be the source of intense contention. It's all about who gets to frame the questions, define the terms, and even decide what arguments are mentioned and

    • There is no such thing as information overload. All you have to do is narrow your search, or re-evaluate what you thought you were looking for. Because the tools are more powerful, they require more thought to use effectively. Not an astounding surprise there.

      I've been responsible for troubleshooting Apple computers. One issue I encountered is ejecting a CD from a Mac Mini. It seems simple enough, but:

      - The keyboard is not compatible with the MacMini (it's a Microsoft wireless keyboard.) Even if it was

    • I don't think "information overload" exists as such. What I have observed, tho, are people who have an obsessive/compulsive need to "know everything". Before Google, these were the newspaper and TV-news junkies -- who would often literally have panic attacks if they were prevented from seeing the day's news, or reading the paper cover to cover.

      But before the "information age", their addiction was self-limiting, because the newspaper only has NN pages and the TV news is only on NN hours a day (not counting r
  • Information overload (Score:1, Interesting)

    by 19061969 ( 939279 )

    Though the term "information overload" was coined, I believe, by Jan Noyes in her book, User Centred Design, this problem has been recognised for many years, most relevantly by Vannevar Bush [ibiblio.org] in his essay 'As We May Think [theatlantic.com]'.

    A couple of posters have already mentioned that they use the Internet as an aid to long term memory (btw - short term memory is different to what many people think - it only last a few seconds. Problems recalling information (or not remembering something you dealt with in great detail a

  • by rune2 ( 547599 ) on Saturday December 31, 2005 @09:30PM (#14372707) Homepage
    Hard work often pays off after time but laziness aways pays off now...
  • Schools (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Infonaut ( 96956 ) <infonaut@gmail.com> on Saturday December 31, 2005 @09:43PM (#14372748) Homepage Journal

    Look at the number of chain letter emails in your spam folder that are filled with misinformation easily checked at Snopes [snopes.com]. Otherwise intelligent people pass on this crap without realizing they're polluting the information stream with fiction passed off as facts.

    In the United States we need an education system that is actually oriented around giving children the ability to analyze information and make rational decisions. If you know how to swim, an ocean of information isn't very scary.

    I find it very disturbing that people far younger than I, who have grown up in the Internet Age, often have no idea that the information they are absorbing is not all equally reliable. One of the first things I learned in school was that you can't believe everything you read. Perhaps we've forgotten how to teach that lesson, even though it is more important now than ever before.

    The push is on to privatize schools and abandon the government's role in education. Market forces being what they are, I wouldn't be surprised if education conglomerates began to take over K-12 education. While privatization of education might not be a bad thing in other respects, something tells me large for-profit entities wouldn't be interested in pushing a curriculum that fosters healthy scepticism of marketing, mainstream media, and corporations.

    • And that is why community-funded Student-Directed-Learning Centers are a Better Idea than private schools.
    • Are you suggesting the current fix "throw more money at the problem" is working in America? The biggest problem I had in school was the slow pace of the classes and the emphasis on busywork because we as a society are so enamored with equality that we don't divide the students in any way until they pick their classes in the last two years of high school.

      Some people are visual learners, some people need extra one-on-one assistance, but the idea that each head full of mush acquires knowledge the same way is

    • In case you haven't noticed, the current curriculum (textbooks, etc.) already have been taken over by education conglomerates (big industry). As you might guess, it doesn't foster healthy scepticism of market, mainstream media, or corporations.
  • RSS Helps me (Score:4, Interesting)

    by bahamat ( 187909 ) on Saturday December 31, 2005 @09:54PM (#14372789) Homepage
    Actually, I think technology is keeping up. I used to spend hours a day reading news sites, blogs, and whatever else. A lot of that time was spent simply checking for new stories. With RSS feeds I'm now alerted when there's something new that I haven't seen. Instead of wasting countless hours looking for information that I might find useful I now have it hand delivered to me in a nice little package and I find that when I'm bored I usually look to things other than the Internet to fill that time.

    Maybe the article writer just needs to catch up to technology and get himself a good RSS reader.
  • by General Alcazar ( 726259 ) on Saturday December 31, 2005 @10:00PM (#14372807)
    I was cracking open the collected works of Charles Darwin over the holidays, and it struck me - boy they sure don't write 'em like this any more.

    It occurred to me that my reading patterns have changed drastically in the last few years. I used to be a chain book reader. As soon as I was done with one, another would be on my night stand. Lately, I have been just reading magazines as I head for the pillow. I wondered why, and I realized that the way that I access information and put together knowledge has changed. While I still enjoy a good long book when I can find the time, a lot of what makes up my worldview is now assembled piecemeal, by patching together snippets of knowledge gleaned via message boards, articles, search engines, what have you - online. It may sound flaky, but I do believe that this method of learning does have some merit. Previously, I was entirely dependent on authors to guide my learning and point of view unchallenged through the form of the book. Now, when I am researching something - say, evolution - I can read in-depth articles in one tab of my browser, while in another, I keep an alternate point of view ready, and in a third, I keep search results for words that I need to look up.

    It is a great boon to me to be so in charge of my education. However, the drawback is that I sometimes miss out on deep understanding that can only come from the long process of an extended narrative.

    Back to good ol' Chuck!
  • by Mancat ( 831487 ) on Saturday December 31, 2005 @10:11PM (#14372834) Homepage
    Within the past few years, I've really come to believe that the old adage "ignorance is bliss," is completely true. Day after day of being bombarded with news of terrorist warnings, new diseases, new laws, scandals, etc. I am just tired of hearing all of it. I rarely hear a piece of single genuinely good news on the Internet or TV - yes, I still do watch TV news often. It's depressing. The worst part of all of this, is that I feel there is nothing that I can do as a single person with any of these pieces of information. Can I personally impeach a president? Can I personally launch an investigation of some corrupt corporation? It all makes you feel very helpless as an individual in our modern society, and that's not a good feeling.

    I suppose my attitude is a huge part of it. I could be more positive about the information that I'm seeing on a regular basis, but since so little of it is positive news, it sure is tough to keep that attitude up.

  • by SpecialAgentXXX ( 623692 ) on Saturday December 31, 2005 @10:11PM (#14372835)
    Geeze, come on. We have advancements in technology that allows much faster access to many more subjects than in the past and people question whether or not it's a good thing?? The same analogy can be applied to modern farming and the supermarket. Are we having an overload of food or are we just too lazy to farm? We are not too lazy to farm. Instead, we have mastered agriculture which has allowed us to pursue other interests in science, business, the arts, etc. As with everything else, the truly lazy will abuse it - i.e. stuff their faces or never read a book - but that should not raise doubt as we progress onwards.
  • Really, what is information overload? Do you get so much information you start forgetting the stuff you just got? Is your brain getting hotter or does it shut down? I don't think so. Information overload is what you make yourself for it. I read different newssites (slashdot and other) every day multiple times a day, follow up on forums etc. I don't think I get too much information because I don't want the extra information and I filter it out. Maybe some people have problems with filtering the stuff they do
  • Thinking about the amount of knowledge that has been available in the past, and what it meant to acquire knowledge, there is far more knowledge than ever before in history. There is enough information on the Internet to acquire the sum total of knowledge gained from any given 4-year degree (just without the paper to show for it) but that doesn't mean that people (in general) are using it or doing anything useful with it. Computers are getting more powerful and software more sophisticated, but I'm not even g
  • by thegrassyknowl ( 762218 ) on Saturday December 31, 2005 @11:22PM (#14372980)

    With a generation growing up expecting everything on the Internet

    The Internet has ruined the world. Sure, it has the potential to bring GREAT things, and some great things have arisen from the use of the Internet (Google, Slashdot, cheap phone calls, rapid sharing of files and other information,etc).

    The problem is that everyone has come to expect that it is some fundamental human right and requirement to be connected to the Internet. This means every man and his dog is out there putting their views on webpages, spouting off their views in forums (hey, i'm guilty of it... I'm here), giving incorrect advice on message boards, etc.

    This information never goes away. It's not like a phone conversation or a book, where it will likely be destroyed. Search engines archive it, the wayback machine archives it, people archive it. There is not too much information, there is too much hot air on the Internet. It's getting hard to find things through all the advertising, the porn, the wank from people without a clue and the general junk.

    I've been with the Interdoodle since the early 90s. That was really a good time. The Spam problem wasn't so much an issue - it was really just winding up. Search engines rapidly found what you wanted (as long as the search couldn't remotely be linked to porn) and there were generally less idiots on there because the Internet was mostly only available to university staff and large companies back then. The idea of personal Internet was still largely unheard of.

    Now, with the widespread adoption of the Internet in schools, coffee shops, shopping malls, universities, businesses, etc, people are accustomed to always being connected. This means they can always "google it". I find that a lot of the problem is that kids are learning the search engine in school, and not the library. They are learning the word processor instead of the pen. They are learning the instant messenger instead of the postal service. They have come to expect to be able to find it online and they have come to trust any page that says what they want it to say without any verification at all.

    This really is a case of Internet laziness rather than good old-fashioned people getting smarter. The Internet is probably stifling productivity and innovation becase people are spending too long looking to it for answers to even simple questions.

    The solution lies in taking the Internet out of schools and encouraging students to go to the library and use resources like... $DIETY help us... books, teachers, peers, used car salesmen, etc. There are a lot of places people could look instead of the Internet.

  • I have a ruthless drive to find knowledge about China, warfare, history, cultures, technology and as of yet the internet is woefully skimpy on details and is often wrong in general. If they can archive enough online information in html format (pdf's suck) I'd pay to access it, up to $10 CND a month (hobbies have monetary limits). If it's free all the better. Unfortunately I'm a minority in this world, and most people would want it for free and most people just want to know what Bennifer II had for breakfast
  • by thesandtiger ( 819476 ) on Sunday January 01, 2006 @12:53AM (#14373142)
    As long as there are decent indexes, there's no such thing as information overload.

    A good index allows one to narrow down one's search while also allowing serendipity. It allows one to state the same thing in multiple ways, while also informing the user of proper taxonomy. It is up to date and complete.

    The only people who think there's too much information are the people who can't figure out how to access it efficiently, and get overwhelmed - people who fret over new tools, rather than embrace them.
    • Exactly. Over 10,000 scholarly journals are published every month. When the number exceeded a few hundred, decades ago, overload had already set in. Now there are at least great indexes and searchable databases. This list [berkeley.edu] compiled by Berkeley shows what is available in most university libraries. I especially like Stanford's HighWire Press [highwire.org], a free database of over a million scholarly articles. Things are getting better, not worse.
  • This takeoff on the title of Alvin Toffler's book from decades ago, combined with Sturgen's Law that 90 percent of everything is crap, inspires the tagline "too much crap in too little time."
  • by 3seas ( 184403 ) on Sunday January 01, 2006 @10:00AM (#14374033) Homepage Journal
    ...Mostly examples of bull shit, and thus the real problem is created.... not knowledge overload but the problem of separating the bull shit from valid knowledge and even further the separation of core knowledge from scope of valid knowledge.

    For example: the application/result of a mathmatical algorythim is valid only if it applies to a non-bull shit objective of the point of doing the calculation.

    You can memorize all the calculations results but if you know/understand the core knowledge of mathmatics and the mathmatical elements relative to the subject of the calculation, you can calculate it if and when you need to know it. That's alot less knowledge to need to know.

    Another example: Autocad (and this applies to other programs as well) provides many many user functions, but for a beginner to start being productive with it, there is the core set of functions (might be called short cuts or tips and tricks) the user can apply and get productive rather quickly.

    Example can be given for many other areas of knowledge, including politics, religion, (things though verifiably mostly bull shit), etc..

    Core knowledge, what it is, is the knowldge that allows calculating out valid information when you need to consider it. And it is always relative to life, specifically your life and the environment you live in.

    Core knowledge is much tighter, integrated and to some degree self verifiable. Not to be confused with fabricated knowledge requiring self supported dependancies --- the logic of an addict for example.

    The Bush administration lacks core knowledge and in all of its fabrication of justifying its faulty actions the complexity of knowledge has grown to be more than it or the NSA can keep straight.
    So if the NSA can process such massive amounts of information, for terrorist threats, from internet communications to phone taps, etc...Then the article is not real, but bull shit itself, but if the NSA is looking for "how to do it" then the article is an "RFC"

    And according to an ACLU mailout there is the "Faith in god" bush direction to try and get people to ignore the mess.

    So what light does all this put the article this thread is about, in?

    There is not a knowledge overload, there is a bullshit overload.

    When was the last time you did a search on something thru the internet and found mostly links to unrelated stuff?

    Core knowledge vs. bullshit overload.

    WHAT IF: all that you may believe about the war on terrorism, Bush, Bin Laden (who has forgoten about him?), dot com boom and bust, Enron, Worldcom, world economic problems,etc..... What if this knowledge overload has a much simpler core knowledge.

    A core knowledge that would have allowed you to accurately predict (no majic involved, just logic and simple mathmatics) all of it? Or even now enlighten you, reduce your knowledge overload on all of this?

    Well there is!

    Do a search on "Trillion Dollar bet" and read the transcript. Follow the money.

    When you understand why Ted Turner said the attack on the WTC, Pentagon, White House was an act of despration, then you will know there really is not a war on terrorism, least not how you probably think. But rather a resistant against those who do others wrong.

    When you understand this, then you too will see the solution and who is really guilty of terrorism (a fraction of a percent of the 6 billion population on this planet)...

    To remove terrorism, stop doing others wrong and start doing others right...

    http://www.unesco.org/education/tlsf/theme_a/mod02 /www.worldgame.org/wwwproject/index.shtml [unesco.org]

    CORE KNOWLEDGE --- its alot simpler and far from overload.

     
  • Access to information is the problem. We know that the information we want is out there, but often 'premium' content providers bury it amongst junk, ads, click-through mazes, etc. And that's just to find out if it is garbage or not.

    In a true overload system they key is to make information easy to scan and discard when junk. Witness WebRSS [oreillynet.com]... a presentation style in the form of an rss reader. You have instant access to everything (in topic), it's quickly scannable & discardable, and you're left with

  • I see the Internet as the very beginning of something big in human evolution - we're getting to the point where we can control our own evolution.

    At the moment, we all depend on our computers to search for data on the web, hence the question. But as we master quantum storage, I believe we will all have the ability to have all the info on the web surgically connected to our brains - thus we will 'know' all the info on the web. No more searching (well unless you count searching our own brains).
  • My short term memory is shit! I find it very very hard to recall thoughts from just a few minutes or seconds ago.

    I have a very high IQ but didn't always use to haev memory problems. It sort of started in the high school era.

    At the age of 7 I was given a Commodore 64/128 as well and have grown up with computers all my life. I was on Prodigy and then the BBSs back in the day (early 90's), and one of the first people I know of my age to get on the Net. I am 23 now.

    I hated high school mostly because my natural

The confusion of a staff member is measured by the length of his memos. -- New York Times, Jan. 20, 1981

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