Information overload and “connecting the dots”

This short piece by David Dalrymple (an 18 year-old PhD student at MIT — wow, that’s enough to make one feel inadequate and over the hill!),  emphasizes both the problems and opportunities created by the vast sea of information now available on the Internet.  Dalrymple writes: “. . . the majority of this information is worthless to the majority of people.  Yet anything we care to know . . . is out there somewhere.”   Just as Frank Pasquale (here and here, for a couple of examples) (and others) have discussed, the difficulty is figuring out how to wade through this information.   This is no small concern.  The national security failure to “connect the dots” concerning the Christmas Day “underwear bomber” seems to have arisen in part from information overload.  The administration has admitted that “the government had sufficient information to uncover the plot” but that it failed to “connect those dots.”  The New York Times asserts “that there were far more warning signs than the administration has acknowledged.”   While Dalrymple focuses on the individual, arguing that “filtering, not remembering, is the most important skill for those who use the Internet,”  filtering  may also be the most important skill for our national security organizations.

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