Instrumented Interconnecteds Intelligent

Fabio Gandour is a self-described provocateur. The chief scientist for IBM Research – Brazil was a pediatric surgeon before becoming a hospital CIO and then coming to IBM as a senior health specialist and eventually migrating into research. His thinking is just as unusual as his career path. So I wasn’t surprised when I visited him in the lab in Sao Paulo recently and he told me that we humans are suffering from information  indigestion. “We became informivores. We eat information all the time,” he said. Which can produce some unfortunate side effects: “If you eat too much information your brain can’t digest it.”

In other words, Big Data can be bad for you if you don’t watch out.

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Technology gurus have been warning about the ill-effects of information overload for decades, but things are worse today then they were in, say, the early ’90s. These days, the volume of digital information is overwhelming, the quality of much of the information on the Internet is lousy and its coming at us all the time. There’s no escape. “We get brain congestion,” Gandour said. ” The intake of information is bigger than we can handle to the point where we can’t select what’s important and what’s not important.”

Surprisingly for a guy who works for a technology firm, Gandour suggests a couple of seemingly radical solutions: less technology should be used in schools, and parents should limit their children’s use of computers and smartphones.

Technology also has an important role to play in the solution, according to Gandour. He called for the development of information analysis technologies that will help us identify information that’s of higher quality in terms of its accuracy and precision. Says Gandour: “The information technology industry created the problem. Now let’s use information technology to help solve the problem.”

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Posted by: Marg Bires
May 28, 2012
11:38 am

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Posted by: レビトラ
April 5, 2012
11:36 pm


(Hint, Brain congestion has nothing to do with it!)

The core assumption behind information overload is that the information we want is the same as the information we need or like. Therefore, we cannot with good reason cut back on the information we want, because it reflects stuff that is important to us. Hence, thanks to the web we are overloaded with needed information that we can’t help wanting. However, from the perspective of contemporary affective neuroscience, wanting and liking are NOT the same thing, and are governed by entirely different neural processes. Thus, what we want is different from what we need because wanting and liking represent distinctive neurological events. Therefore, the key underlying premise of information overload that everything we want is the same as everything we need is based on cognitive principles that have no basis in neural reality, and the concept of information overload must therefore be abandoned.

The linked article questions the concept of information overload by challenging this most elementary underlying assumption. Based on the work of the distinguished neuropsychologist Kent Berridge of the University of Michigan (who also vetted and endorsed it), it is simple, short, and uses a Boston Red Sox title run to make its very radical point. Hope you ‘like’ it or at the very least the Red Sox!

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March 6, 2012
6:38 am

I think we will be fine digesting all new info, human brain can take care of it.

Posted by: kaip numesti svorio
December 6, 2011
9:14 pm

I agree with the information overload, however, I would only apply it to people whom can not process the information. Much like a bottleneck in a system, the brain can process data according to that persons capability. Some can process way more then others. The average brain however can barely keep up (I am in agreement with the information overload statements).

Its funny you stated “development of information analysis technologies” – In this ERA (I personally believe we are beyond the information age and well into the Analytics age) the best way to process an overload of information is to define the Intelligent, Logical analysis of that data, process the highly valuable data, and store the rest for future use.

I have no Scientific claim to fame, only that I worked at building a team to focus analytical thought into deliverable process within IBM, with a focus on what information we needed for successful projects.

I believe in “Collect it all, use it later” mentality when it comes to DATA, I would rather have too much data to analyze, then not enough. Not enough data leads to misinterpreted or even false analysis. If you gear your analytical process to tell you what you want to hear, you have to give it what it needs to do so as well…and that Data.

Posted by: Timothy P Kane Sr
December 4, 2011
5:59 pm

It was interesting to see some – better to say: few – manifestations in favor of the concerns we have expressed in our interaction with Steve Hamm.
It was interesting because it was also comforting: these comments and some others we got from social media tools, gave us the sensation we are not alone. There are other evangelists, like you, willing to combat the poor mental nutrition power “proteinfo”.
For the moment, the only other comment I can make is “please, don’t give up !”. The mental sanity of the whole mankind can be dependent on you & alike !

By the way, Steve made a great job in capturing the essence of our discomfort in his post. Thanks indeed !

Posted by: Fabio Gandour
December 1, 2011
11:22 am

Also worries me that the anxiety in our society is making us “eating” it faster and that contributes to a even greater brain congestion and the lost of ourselves.
I totally agree with Mr. Gandour that we need to use technology wisely in our favor and not to slave or harm us, but also each one should look at the mirror and ask: Am I listening to myself or just echoing what others are thinking/saying/writing as my believes? That is particulary worst with children and teenagers, as almost all of them believe that everything found at their first search at the Google (or other search mechanism) is the true. That gives a potential power to control people’s thoughts like never before in our history. That really scares me.

Posted by: Carlos Pane
November 30, 2011
4:34 pm

In fact, the more available information one has, more attention and effort will be needed to find sense in all that.

Quoting Herbert Simon (Economy Nobel laureate, 1978): “What information consumes is rather obvious: it consumes the attention of its recipients. Hence a wealth of information creates a poverty of attention, and a need to allocate that attention efficiently among the overabundance of information sources that might consume it.”

So, there is a long cognitive journey from noise/data/info to knowledge/understanding/wisdom. With the excess information we are facing, though, are we going in the wrong direction?

Posted by: Roberto Diniz
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December 6, 2011
9:22 pm

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