Saturday, March 21, 2015

In the Age of Information, Specializing to Survive; New York Times, 3/19/15

J. Peder Zane, New York Times; In the Age of Information, Specializing to Survive:
"Of course, not all information is equal. Those exabytes do include a few great novels, stirring films and groundbreaking scientific discoveries. Most are flotsam wrapped in jetsam: insipid blog posts and text messages, YouTube videos of cuddly cats and pornographic acts, ignorance that poses as knowledge.
“We are overloaded with junk,” said Daniel Levitin, a professor of psychology and behavioral neuroscience at McGill University whose books include “The Organized Mind.” “It’s becoming harder and harder to separate the wheat from the digital chaff. The problem with the Internet is anyone can post, so it’s hard to know whether you are looking at a fact or pseudofact, science or pseudoscience.”...
If the information age makes knowledge seem like a straitjacket, David Galenson, a professor of economics at the University of Chicago, notes that progress often hinges on those rare individuals who have escaped its bonds. Artists from Picasso to Bob Dylan and entrepreneurs including Bill Gates and Steve Jobs changed the world by finding “radically new ways of looking at old problems,” Mr. Galenson said. “They cut through all the accumulated stuff — forget what’s been done — to see something special, something new.”...
For many who don’t share that kind of vision, the response to information overload is simple: Just search and forget (repeat as necessary). Even more ambitious absorbers of knowledge like Jonathan Haber will most likely find that the key to lifelong learning is a human mediator, someone who has engaged in the ancient task of searching and sorting through knowledge.
Until, of course, a modern-day Leonardo invents a machine that can do that too."

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