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Thoughts on the information age

  1. May 30, 2007 #1


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    Basically, in the informational age, there is informational overload, that is, you can only learn and access a very minute subset of all of the information that you can theoretically access. That means that search and organization of the information become especially important. The individual only retains a small subset of information that he has access to - however - he can use key words to tag each stockpile of information that he encounters - such that he will no longer have to search for information that he has already encountered. Thus, all information previously encountered becomes very easy to access with the help of key words. There is a "natural selection" that goes on in "memetic retention" - that is, a person is likely to remember only a small subset of all the experiences he encounters - and environmental factors determine which one of those experiences are more likely to be retained than others.

    Moreover, efficiency is key. There are inhibitory mechanisms that often prevent people from realizing "passive interests"/"passive incentives". But yet, if the inhibitory mechanisms are removed, people can do much more. Think about it as this - the elements of time and effort are often inhibitory mechanisms that prevent people from doing a lot. If there were no inhibitory mechanisms in say, talking to someone (because the person was next to you), then the net result is that there is a larger net total of words exchanged between the two people, even though it was always theoretically possible for you to have the exchange with the same number of words. But what is theoretically possible is rarely realized.

    Where information (on the individual level) is theoretically unlimited, one has to be wise to figure out which bits of information are (a) relevant to one's own needs and (b) reliable. One may also be wise to split up (a) into (a1) information relevant in the immediate present and (a2) information of potential relevance in the far future. With informational storage and search algorithms, there is little reason to constrain (a2).

    To be able to distinguish between reliable and unreliable information is a valuable skill. Those with such skills can be able to access websites with potentially high ratios of (unreliable info) to (reliable info) without falling prey to the (unreliable info). The fact is that such websites may often include "insider information" and informal knowledge that "official" websites would never disclose, even if the "official" websites have very low ratios of (unreliable info) to (reliable info). Nonetheless, the informal websites with high ratios of (unreliable info) to (reliable info) often contain more net knowledge than the formal websites with low ratios of (unreliable info) to (reliable info). Unfortunately, most humans may never have the intelligence to develop such skills.

    Do not be too restrictive in the informational age. Those who dislike you will ignore you (and are unlikely to hinder you in your efforts in the future). But those who like you are likely to contact you. Sometimes, the indiscriminate befriending of people can land you a new contact who is more in tune with your interests than anyone you have met in real life - even if you had to befriend 500 people just for that new contact who is more in tune with such interests of yours.

    For me, information redundancy is undesirable. However, all past information is technically redundant information. Yet, the change in scene and in perspective is enough to render the information non-redundant, for the content of information changes along with a change in context.

    The most important fields of the future are neurobiology, information technology, and cognitive psychology. To know how one thinks, and to know how one processes information, these are applicable to ALL areas, including mathematics (mathematicians are, after all, notorious for their dismissal of most other fields - it is true that most of them are irrelevant to mathematics. Nonetheless, cognitive psychology and information processing efficiency are still relevant). This applies to ALL fields in ALL areas.
  2. jcsd
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