Information overload…

Maybe I’m just getting old, but every day it seems to be more difficult to process the information I look for and find. I seem to be drowning in it. I try to be selective, but the selection takes time too. Some days the selection process takes more time than processing the information I’ve received.

Information is now mined by corporations who sell what they’ve mined to other corporations. The latter are probably in the same boat I’m in. Will Corporate America come to a grinding halt when it has so much information that it can’t process it? Will I?

Some computer gurus discuss a tipping point when computer networks become sentient and human beings become superfluous. (The Terminator movies are built on this premise.) I don’t think that will happen. When information overload maxes out, computers will be turned off, AIs, robots, and androids will crazy, and civilization will end. We’ll probably return to a hunter-gather society. The only information we’ll need then is what to hunt and what to gather.

We’re already networking computers to solve problems of great complexity. But will we reach the point that the solutions to these problems are just as complex and human beings can’t begin to understand them? I can imagine a worldwide network going crazy because it has solved a complex and important problem but the solution is so complex that only another worldwide network can understand it!

Books are part of this information overload. Even if I came up with some clever selection algorithm, I’m resigned to the fact that I’ll never be to read all the books I might find interesting. Maybe I’ll just have to be content reading the blurbs?

My Kindle doesn’t help here—quite the contrary. I have to select what I download. That takes time (I use the “peek inside” feature, not just the blurbs). After I start reading the book, my Kindle notes my reading speed, which is pretty fast, and calculates how many minutes of reading are left. The Kindle’s clock ticks away. I try to keep from looking at it.

Authors often talk about “research” for their books—the historical milieu of a historical fiction novel, or facts about Mars when writing a sci-fi novel about a colony there, for example (I’ve done both). The word “research” is used incorrectly. It’s really a search for information, not research in the sense of creating something new. The information is already there. You just have to find it.

One way to do it is to perform a Google search (note that they don’t call it “Google research”). The Google search engine is pretty good at spitting out relevant information. Sometimes too good. It can spit out more information than I can handle. More information overload.

I often marvel at classical musicians in live performances. Because I’ve done it myself, I know you can be so familiar with a piece that you can play it by memory. But the professional musician knows so many pieces! By focusing on relatively tiny sets of information, it’s possible to process them and even repeat them. But the entire Beethoven “Apassionata” Sonata? Or Bach’s “Well-Tempered Clavier”?

Have you ever looked at a piece of music and been stricken dumb by its complexity? Have you ever performed a Google search and been stricken dumb by the sheer quantity of information? I’ve experienced information overload many times and those experiences are becoming more frequent, not because I’m getting old, but because I have more and more information to process.

I can see a Zeno-like paradox occurring: human beings will resort to computer butlers that go out and scoop up relevant information determined by key words and so forth from other computer butlers who go out and scoop up relevant information, ad infinitum. But each butler won’t be able to process the information it obtains, so you would just end up with a messy divergent series. Note that’s really a tipping point when information just becomes infinite chaos.

Geez, I sure need another mug of coffee!


Rembrandt’s Angel (a mystery/thriller from Penmore Press). To what lengths would you go to recover a stolen masterpiece? Scotland Yard’s Arts and Antiques Inspector Esther Brookstone goes the extra mile. She and paramour/sidekick Bastiann van Coevorden, an Interpol agent, set out to outwit the dealers of stolen art and recover “An Angel with Titus’ Features,” a Rembrandt painting stolen by the Nazis in World War Two. Their efforts lead to much more, as they uncover an international conspiracy that threatens Europe. During their dangerous adventures, their relationship solidifies and becomes a full-blown romance. This book is available in ebook format at Amazon and at Smashwords and its affiliate retailers. It’s available as a print version at Amazon, B&N, or your favorite bookstore (if not there, ask for it). Happy reading!

In libris libertas!

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