Information has become the great leveler of society and business. Today, practically everyone is more informed than even the most informed person was a mere 25 years ago yet, paradoxically, knows a smaller percentage of the available knowledge. Governments, too, are far better informed about what other nations are doing (which, we hope, leads to fewer misunderstandings) as well as what the citizenry is up to. Young people in poorer nations – witness India, for example – have been able to capitalize on the flexibility of an information society to create better lives for themselves as knowledge workers, something unimaginable a mere quarter century ago.
Knowledge workers think for a living to varying extents, depending on the job and situation, but there is little time for thought and reflection in the course of a typical day. Instead, information – often in the form of e-mail messages, reports, news, Web sites, RSS feeds, blogs, wikis, instant messages, text messages, Twitter, and video conferencing walls – bombards and dulls our senses.
We try to do our work, but information gets in the way. It’s not unlike the game Tetris, where the goal is to keep the blocks from piling up. You barely align one, and another is ready to take its place.
When computers first began to encroach upon our everyday lives, they were in distant, glass-walled rooms run by scientists in white coats. The closest most of us came to them were punch cards that came with utility bills. Indeed the ...