(How to Avoid Being Roadkill on
the Information Superhighway)

1996 All Rights Reserved
Richard R. Orsinger

XIII. INFORMATION OVERLOAD Now that everyone can publish electronically, and as bandwith continues to increase, there will be more and more information available until *WHAM!* we have information overload. Before, we had trouble getting the information we wanted because it wasn't cheap and readily available. In the future, we will have trouble getting the information we want because too much information is too cheap and too readily available.

A. Filtering Services To contain information overload, services will arise (some already exist) that will monitor the information markets and group selected information into specialized electronic newsletters or databases. We will pay these services for access to their selected information.

B. Agents Individuals will have software programs called "agents," which will prowl the Internet collecting information in specified areas. The agent can provide a mix of information types (e.g., stock markets, weather, news from Dallas, baseball, and Chevrolet Corvettes).

C. Boolean Searching Brute force searching of raw material using key words and Boolean connectors ("Boolean," a language originating from the South Pacific Island of Boole that has been adapted to computer research) will continue to be a tool for information seekers willing to slog through hundreds or even thousands of "hits." Xerox PARC (Palo Alto Research Center) is developing new search paradigms that may work more effectively. (Xerox PARC invented the graphical user interface, the laser printer, the mouse, local area networking, bit mapping, object-oriented programming languages, and other mainstays of current computer use). See

D. Serendipity "Serendipity" describes the role of luck or chance in learning or research. Many significant scientific discoveries have been fortuitous, including for example the discovery of the salutary effects of penicillin, which has saved millions of lives. Serendipity was the principle behind putting a sick person at the cross-roads near a medieval town, mentioned on p. R-5 of this Article. Serendipity is the reason you browse through a "good" bookstore looking for interesting books that you didn't know were there before you went. There are vast opportunities for serendipitous learning on the World Wide Web.

E. Self-Education Anyone familiar with the story of Abraham Lincoln's rise from uneducated poverty to the pinnacle of American politics and American history will be thrilled at the prospects of the World Wide Web for self-education. A creative person, a thinker, someone with a thirst for knowledge and understanding, who can get to a computer with a modem, will have direct access to the full measure of past and present human knowledge, through the Internet. Project Gutenberg is accumulating a digital library of books no longer subject to copyright--in other words, free information. See Also see The WWW Virtual Library, at ject/Overview2.html. At the other end of the time spectrum, ongoing research is being reported on the Internet as and even before its results come in. Because of the Internet, people without the gifts of Abraham Lincoln are enabled to rise to their full potential--despite the deteriorating condition of formalized education in America.

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Created August 28, 1996
Last updated August 28, 1996