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

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CHAPTER 8

WHAT HATH INFORMATION OVERLOAD WROUGHT?

We have reason to fear that the multitude of books which grows every day in a prodigious fashion will make the following centuries fall into a state as barbarous as that of the centuries that followed the fall of the Roman Empire.

—Adrien Baillet (1685)

While the inventions of paper (in the year 105) and ink (2697 BCE), the quill pen (ca. 700), and movable type (ca. 1440) increased mankind’s ability to generate and distribute information, it was the advent of commercial telegraphy (1844), the stock ticker (1870), the telephone (1876), and xerography (1938) that truly changed how we create, move, manage, and interact with information.

With these inventions, mankind gained 1.) the ability to send information to others, regardless of distance, in real time, and 2.) the ability to create multiple and exact duplicates of documents without a printing press. More recently, advancements that followed the advent of the Internet conflated these two capabilities into systems that allow exact duplicates of documents to be sent in real time to others.

The tools and technologies used to share information may have changed over the years, but the underlying questions (not to mention organizational requirements) haven’t changed terribly much. What has changed is how and with whom people work, enabled by the creation of new tools that are capable of moving more information than anyone in previous generations had imagined could exist.

Now it is possible ...

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