summing up 89

summing up is a recurring series on topics & insights that compose a large part of my thinking and work. drop your email in the box below to get it straight in your inbox.

Information Underload, by Mike Caulfield

For many years, the underlying thesis of the tech world has been that there is too much information and therefore we need technology to surface the best information. In the mid 2000s, that technology was pitched as Web 2.0. Nowadays, the solution is supposedly AI.

I’m increasingly convinced, however, that our problem is not information overload but information underload. We suffer not because there is just too much good information out there to process, but because most information out there is low quality slapdash takes on low quality research, endlessly pinging around the spin-o-sphere.

we certainly have issues creating the right filters for valuable content, but it also seems to me that it was never easier to create valuable content – and never harder to find it. one reason i publish this ongoing series.

The Shock of Inclusion, by Clay Shirky

To the question "How is Internet is changing the way we think?", the right answer is "Too soon to tell." This isn't because we can't see some of the obvious effects already, but because the deep changes will be manifested only when new cultural norms shape what the technology makes possible.

The Internet's primary effect on how we think will only reveal itself when it affects the cultural milieu of thought, not just the behavior of individual users. We will not live to see what use humanity makes of a medium for sharing that is cheap, instant, and global. We are, however, the people who are setting the earliest patterns for this medium. Our fate won't matter much, but the norms we set will.

there is a vast differences between a tool and a medium. we make use of tools to improve a single capability but a medium changes a whole culture. for example a website as a tool might enable you to present your business on the web, however to prepare a business for the next decade a digital transformation is needed which includes tools like a website, automation and digital communication channels.

Is there an Artificial God? by Douglas Adams

Imagine a puddle waking up one morning and thinking, 'This is an interesting world - an interesting hole I find myself in - fits me rather neatly, doesn't it? In fact it fits me staggeringly well, must have been made to have me in it!' This is such a powerful idea that as the sun rises in the sky and the air heats up and as, gradually, the puddle gets smaller and smaller, it's still frantically hanging on to the notion that everything's going to be alright, because this world was meant to have him in it; so the moment he disappears catches him rather by surprise. I think this may be something we need to be on the watch out for.

There are some oddities in the perspective with which we see the world. The fact that we live at the bottom of a deep gravity well, on the surface of a gas covered planet going around a nuclear fireball 90 million miles away and think this to be normal is obviously some indication of how skewed our perspective tends to be, but we have done various things over intellectual history to slowly correct some of our misapprehensions.

So, my argument is that as we become more and more scientifically literate, it's worth remembering that the fictions with which we previously populated our world may have some function that it's worth trying to understand and preserve the essential components of, rather than throwing out the baby with the bath water; because even though we may not accept the reasons given for them being here in the first place, it may well be that there are good practical reasons for them, or something like them, to be there.

although this speech goes much further than the topics i discuss here, it's a very profound idea. unknowingly we often make up stories about why our products and websites work or fail. regardless of whether we accept these stories as true or not, we can always find some practical reasons in them we should adapt while looking for the truth.


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