The knowledge needle in the (big) data haystack

Americans believe that it is increasingly harder to be a well-informed citizen:

Does the increase in information available today make it: “Easier to be well-informed because there are more sources of news that are easily accessed through newer technologies” or “Harder to be well-informed because people have to sort through lots of information to determine what is true or important”?

This is likely the single most important question in relation to the future of our “information economy” —is bigger really better or not?). One may think that the answer above is tinted by emotional non-objective judgement, because the more information readily available, the better. But beware, it is not information but our capability to pick and process the proper amount of information what actually matters. And it is not difficult to think of a simple model where:

  1. While our capacity to process information grows linearly and it is bounded
  2. Information growth is exponential and unbounded.
  3. And, very likely, noisy information (fake news or straight information pollution) is growing faster than trustworthy information.

In this situation, our whole processing capacity is promptly overwhelmed by the avalanche. Yes, this is the old Herbert Simon’s adage “a wealth of information creates a poverty of attention,” but with a twist: a haystack (data) where it is (maybe) hidden the proverbial needle (knowledge).

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