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Overconnected: The Promise and Threat of the Internet by William H. Davidow

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ELEVEN

Positive Feedback and Information Efficiency at Work

In 1956, my junior year at Dartmouth, I took a course from Professor John Adams called “The World Since 1912.” Adams gave spellbinding lectures. Students often asked him to hold them on big weekends so they could bring their dates. (Dartmouth was still an all-male school at the time.) There was only one problem with Adams’s course. He gave tests that required detailed knowledge of years, names, and places. They were a nightmare of nits. One day a student stood up in the back of class and said: “Professor Adams, I am an engineer. I took this course to broaden myself. It is a great course, but why do I have to memorize all of these facts?” Adams answered without missing a beat: “I have ...

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