Saturday, November 26, 2005

The World is Information Flat.

A simple question, what I want is it information or is it knowledge. Even I am not clear on this and below is my expression to this, may be wrong may be correct…

If you come to think about it for a moment, what we really want is knowledge, not information. The good news is that there is a lot of information out there. The better news is that the cost of accessing that information has been dropping exponentially. But the bad news is that the cost of searching through the vast stock of information to satisfy your knowledge needs is increasing.

My simple explanation for the distinction between knowledge and information. People use the terms interchangeably but they must be distinguished if we wish to reason with some degree of clarity. A telephone book has information about names and numbers, but it does not ‘know’ telephone numbers. A human brain ‘knows’ a phone number, in contrast. Outside the human brain, it is information and organized within the structures of a human mind, it is knowledge.

Here are some fun facts about information that I have gathered from my experience in the database, knowledge based industry and use of the world of internet.

Fun Fact #1: There is a heck a lot of information in the world today. The stock of information is stupendous. The increased production of information has been intensive and extensive. Intensive because more of what we do is recorded, whether in databases, or in your own record of your private life such as in bogs and photo albums, and so on. You have lots more bits of information associated with you than was associated with your ancestors. Extensive because first there are more of us on the planet today, and second, because more of us are doing stuff that produces more information.

Fun Fact #2: A heck of a lot the available information is available online. Some of it is on the World Wide Web accessible through the Internet, while much of it is in the deeper web not generally accessible to the average web surfer.

Fun Fact #3: The stock of information is increasing exponentially. And consequently, the stock of online information is also increasing exponentially. Exponential increases are fairly dangerous things. This is a not-so-much fun fact we will come back to bite us. Flow of information is threatening to become a tsunami.

Fun Fact #4: Regarding the quality of information online, the quality on an average is decreasing.
Let’s just focus on books although we could as easily tell a similar story about movies, or books, or research papers, or photographs, or blogs, or internet postings. A century ago, there were very few books published compared to today. Given the high cost barrier of publishing, only those works that had some enduring quality made the grade. Therefore the average quality of available printed matter was high. Today, there millions of titles are published because of both greater supply (more writers) and greater demand (more readers), and because the cost of publishing (relative to average incomes) has fallen. The quality of the average book, I believe, is lower than before. This is a personal comment though and perception.

It is my contention that the best book of today is better than the best book of yesterday, and that the worst book of today is worse than the worst book of yesterday. Just that I don’t have hard data to support this hunch.

Allow me to make an argument about quality and quantity. Let’s take photographs. When I used an analog camera (print or slides), I used to take a lot fewer pictures than I do today with my friend's digital camera. But I rejected a lot lower percentage of pictures in those analog days. Today, I delete away most of what I take with the digital camera but I end up with much higher quality “best pictures” than before. Taken as a whole, my digital pictures are on average “lower quality” because I click a lot of pictures with greater abandon today given the low average cost of each click. I am not sure if I was able to make this point clear. Till date I prefer to use my own analog camera to a digital one and when one of my friends Ranga,was in Norway planning to get one, I was able to convince him that an analog is better than a digital one.

Fun Fact #5: The cost of accessing information is going down.
Let’s just say “google.” Enter some keywords and you will get about four million hits, give or take a few million. Marginal cost to you: nearly zero (assuming that you have a connected computer at your disposal.). The information can flow through to you through a vast pipe if you need it.

Fun Fact #6: The cost of identifying the information is going up.
So you do get four millions hits in less than 0.4 seconds when you do that search on Google. But, unless you are very lucky, or have been very clever in specifying the search, it will take you a lot of time to sort through it all to find the information you need. The lower the average cost of accessing the information, the higher the search cost for any specific required information. You can have high quantity but will have to put up with low quality; or you can have high quality but it would cost you.

Why this blog…well well wanted to do it just for the heck of it as I am spend a greater part of my time during weekdays in that world. Keep guessing that ….and remainconnected.


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