Wednesday, January 26, 2011

About Jaanga: The Deluge of Data

Image from the Economist's Special Report on managing information

If you look at the About Jaanga page it says. "The thesis of this web site is that if the world is to prevail over the deluge of data then entirely new methods of displaying that data must be established."

So what is this "Deluge of Data"?

It's been around for some time. The Boston Globe says five centuries: Information overload, the early years.

A more fun thought is that it began much earlier - with Greek philosophers such as Socrates and Plato. Plato kept his most important thoughts secret and only revealed these in private spoken discourses. He says "every serious man in dealing with really serious subjects carefully avoids writing." -

Given that King Ludd lived 2,100 or so years after Plato, was Plato being a pre-Luddite? Did this new-fangled technology of reading and writing on scrolls engender a kind of intellectual dyspepsia among these gifted orators? A good double-click into Plato's petulance on papyrus beyond the scope of this post, but the topic may well re-appear in a later post.

In the meantime, let's jumping forward a few millennia back almost to the present to Alvin Toffler and his book Future Shock published in 1970. Wikipedia summarizes:
Toffler argues that society is undergoing an enormous structural change, a revolution from an industrial society to a "super-industrial society". This change will overwhelm people, the accelerated rate of technological and social change leaving them disconnected and suffering from "shattering stress and disorientation" – future shocked. Toffler stated that the majority of social problems were symptoms of the future shock. In his discussion of the components of such shock, he also popularized the term "information overload."
Interestingly (but off-topic) the Wikipedia article on information overload quotes the 18th century French Encyclopedist Diderot:
"As long as the centuries continue to unfold, the number of books will grow continually, and one can predict that a time will come when it will be almost as difficult to learn anything from books as from the direct study of the whole universe. It will be almost as convenient to search for some bit of truth concealed in nature as it will be to find it hidden away in an immense multitude of bound volumes." – Denis Diderot, "Encyclop├ędie" (1755)
Can we theorize that Diderot was imagining some type of augmented reality pince-nez that could parse nature observing in real-time?

Anyway the thing is that there's a lot more stuff being made out there and increasingly it's not steel pipes or bushels of wheat. No the greatest increase in stuff being made is that intangible thing called data.
“Between the birth of the world and 2003, there were five exabytes of information created. We [now] create five exabytes every two days. See why it’s so painful to operate in information markets?” - Eric Schmidt, CEO, Google
So by now you must be getting a little bit twitchy. If I am really writing about the deluge of data and I really believe what I am writing about then this post must eventually deluge you with data.

Not to worry. No need for the brolly yet! Hm, why is the writing style switching from American English to English English? It's because the Economist magazine has come in to save the day.

In one carefully crafted Special Report, the Economist provides you with a synopsis of the Deluge. And that, my friends, is the thesis of the blog. Be clever and you won't get wet. The Deluge of Data is your friend. Treat it wisely and the Deluge of Data will replenish your fields, enable collaboration and allow you to multiply.