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Overload!: How Too Much Information is Hazardous to Your Organization by Jonathan B. Spira

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CHAPTER 1

INFORMATION, PLEASE?

Our knowledge is a receding mirage in an expanding desert of ignorance.

—Will Durant

“Let your fingers do the walking” was the ubiquitous slogan for the Yellow Pages, developed back in 1964 by Geers Gross. It presaged a culture that today can find anything and everything online. The premise back in 1964 was that, rather than going from store to store, you could find what you were looking for in the commercial telephone book.

Back then, getting information was practically synonymous with asking the telephone company operator for a number. My, how things have changed: Today it might be a challenge to locate a telephone book or getting a live person on the line when calling directory assistance.

Given the information explosion that followed the introduction of the Web into almost every corner of the earth, now our fingers never stop walking. (With an amazing lack of foresight, the tagline was scrapped in 1998 by the Yellow Pages Publishers Association; at the time, the association’s president called it “a little boring.” Little did he know.)

Almost every generation has had access to more information than the one preceding it. It was maintained by some historians that Aristotle (384 BCE–322 BCE), in his day, knew everything – that is to say, he knew almost all that was to be known in his time. The same has been said for other polymaths, such as Francis Bacon (1561–1626) and Thomas Young (1773–1829).

Today it is clear that no one could even begin to amass ...

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