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

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CHAPTER 20

THE TECH INDUSTRY AND INFORMATION OVERLOAD

Automation applied to an inefficient operation will magnify the inefficiency.

—Bill Gates

John Burroughs, the essayist and naturalist, is quoted as having said “A man can fail many times, but he isn’t a failure until he begins to blame somebody else.”

While it’s clear that technology has been an enabler for Information Overload, it may be overreaching to blame the technology industry for the entire problem.

With every significant development, from Gutenberg’s printing press, to Carlson’s photocopier, to IBM’s personal computer, mankind found itself able to create and distribute more and more information. The rapid advances made in information and communication technology in the past two decades have further exacerbated the situation, although one can also view the Internet as the latest in a centuries-long effort to democratize access to information.

Unfortunately, these developments brought with them neither the tools to better filter the information that was generated nor the knowledge of how to use the tools in the most responsive manner. As a result, the technology industry needs to take some responsibility in addressing the problem.

The first time, from what I can tell, that the tech industry acknowledged the issue publicly was in the mid-1990s, when Reuters, a business information provider, decided to exploit the problem in the guise of Information Fatigue Syndrome. (See Chapter 6 for a more detailed discussion of IFS). ...

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