Dec 082009

It’s become clear to me recently that one of the more useful skills a person can posses in these times is the ability to sift through the wealth of information strewn about everywhere to find the best and most useful piece of information at that particular moment. It’s true that google has done a wonderful job at sorting information into groups that are relevant based on particular phrases or words, but as of right now it can’t go any deeper than that in terms of delivering information relevant specifically to me as a person. Google doesn’t know whether or not I have time to read a 1000-word article, or listen to a 45-minute podcast. It categorizes in general what is useful, but not what is specifically useful to me. That level of sorting needs to be done by me, and it takes skill to do so quickly and rapidly. When I execute a google search, in some way all of the information presented to me could be useful, but in no way do I have the time or inclination to read all of it. How do I determine what pieces of information will be most relevant to me at this specific point in time? How do I maximize the impact of the time I spend digesting any set of information?

The old adage “information is power” is no longer relevant in today’s world. Right now information is not power. Everyone has information. In fact, a valid case could be made that too much information is less power, because as more time is spent on reading and parsing information, less time is available to act on that information which could have had the most impact.

So in our times, it is more appropriate to say “the right information is power.” (And, no doubt, someone far more forward-thinking than me has likely said this very thing years ago. But let’s just gloss over that for a moment.)

My point here is my realization that the ability to sift through mediocre and good information to find the really great information, and the ability to filter out that which is not important is a skillset which is becoming increasingly necessary. I suppose much of this line of thought was prompted by a search on Amazon for books on social media. The stack of books that was thrown at me by Amazon’s “relevant titles” was ridiculous. What really freaked me out was that all the books actually looked good, were written by fairly prominent authors, and had been published in the last year. I instantly wanted to buy and read about a dozen of them. Ridiculous. “Choose one or two Aaron,” I thought.

But which ones? Is there one which will be best for me in my situation right now? So I looked through the reviews, read the excerpts, and whittled the list down to 2. I have absolutely no idea whether I made a good or a bad choice. But I did am slowly learning about the value of processing and sorting information into what will allow me to be more effective.

Is it possible that in the future, information processing and sorting systems will be so powerful, and have gathered so much specific data on us that they will be able to deliver with amazing accuracy the information and data that is perfect for us in each moment? Will we be living with predictive models so sophisticated that a search for tennis rackets will deliver those models suited specifically to my skill level based on knowing that I played on my high school varsity team, but have been an infrequent player for several years? And will we even want to live with so much about ourselves known and stored in massive data factories? Ok, that was just my Skynet/scary robots/evil computers nasty thought of the week. Apologies.

But really, about the dealing with massive amounts of information effectively thing. It’s important.

 Posted by at 9:53 pm

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