Information overload through technology

The data that confront us on the internet simply are mind boggling. Much of it is of no interest or value.

Company promotions abound, and there are innumerable bloggers just cluttering up space. Of course, some may be of consequence, but the overwhelming percentage is neither informative nor worthwhile. Information overload is a big nuisance.

While emails may require a reply and cannot be ignored, Reuters reports that more than two-thirds are irritating, made their jobs less fulfilling, and did nothing to improve personal relationships.

One commentator describing the overflow of data called it “data asphyxiation.” Others call it “data smog” or “information fatigue syndrome.” Most managers think that the overwhelming amount of material they receive is useless. Hence, all recognize there is a problem with the amount of data presented to them.

Needless to say, a message from a friend is welcome, but companies are trying to get more out of their employees, so that workers now complain that extra work is entailed.

As a result of all that, to quote The Economist, the information oversupply can make people feel “anxious and powerless.”

Furthermore, just trying to keep up with the details presented, leaves little time for any employee to perform the usual tasks, or, perhaps, to be original. The Harvard Business School reported that forcing someone to deal with this oversupply of data means that workers will be greatly handicapped.

What can be done? Primarily, people have to be educated so that they recognize that a lot of data are misleading or junk, causing confusion. An unknown blogger may try to be convincing that he or she has a worthwhile opinion on the economy or the stock market. Without any credentials that are displayed, clearly that should be disregarded.

An imaginative response should be to invent filters that will reduce all that data. Already Xerox has plans “to restore information sanity” by developing filtering devices.

How that can be accomplished is not clear;  it may be just wishful thinking. Furthermore nowadays, individuals must learn to cope, forget the noise, and to focus on what is important. Common sense must be developed, not an impossible exercise.



Bruce Whitestone