Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Infinite Information - Narrow Minds?

We live in today's age of infinite information. Never before have we had the world at our fingertips. Google provides us with a portal into the World Wide Web. It's truly an amazing time. With all of this information, don't you think that we'd be more open to ideas?

Here's a reverse point of view on things though, that I'd like to throw out and see what you guys think. Do you think that with so much information and so many tools to wade through this information that we are actually providing ourselves with a more narrow mindset? After all, in college, weren't we encouraged to do everything? With our new Internet tools are we limiting ourselves? An example: Let's say that you were interested in news on the Yahoo - Microsoft merger. You input this into your Google Reader and now Google comes up with other news articles that fit the meta data with Yahoo and Microsoft. So other news items that come up deal with Google, Cisco, Oracle, and other such tech companies. Another example: Netflix and Amazon. You like tech books/movies and AMZN/NFLX provides you with these recommendations. Are you missing out on Shakespeare/Art house films that you might never come across because you've weeded them out with your preferences?

We can even look at a tool like Digg where the Digg community determines what is news. This news is then "dugg" to the top. What if this was the way that we determine what is important? (Note: some Europeans already think that American media is like this). So for example, the latest features on the newest iPhone is more important than the latest updates on the war in Iraq. The results of yesterday's Yankee game is more important than ..... To some yes, this is important.

This fragmentation of information is creating imperfect information. Are we missing out on some things? Do we still need portals to ensure that we have a shared experience? That we all know who won the Super Bowl, that we all know who won World War II, that we all know who the 32nd president of the US is.... (which by the way leads to another post about how we don't need to "store" information in our heads anymore).

Yes the long tail is a phenomenon that will not go away and the Internet will magnify this effect. But is the head of the tail dead? Will there truly be no more blockbusters? Ironically, the day the Long Tail was published Pirates of the Caribbean set all types of box office records. Are we living in a world where we all live in our own worlds? Is there value anymore in the front page of the New York Times, when we can all create our own?

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