• Infoglut and cognitive aesthetics

    by  • March 2, 2008 • Personal, The Global Picture • 1 Comment

    It’s official: I’m not even able to keep up with the highlights of my blogs, never mind the real meaty content. And that’s having sacrificed pretty much all of my book time to blog time.

    Infoglut has overtaken me.

    What’s interesting is that I can’t really collaborate my way out of this. Smari, Marcin, David, Jonathan, Jason and so on all cherry-pick useful things out of the blogosphere and other sources. In theory, I could read their highlights, Reddit, Digg, and be pretty much done.

    In practice, though, for every link that hits the spot, there are 30 references to follow up. Each one of which branches into 50 new links.

    I’ve been doing a broad “read the highlights” strategy now for about 10 years, with occasional binges of hundreds-of-pages-a-day web scraping. In theory this social software stuff ought to make that process less time consuming. Instead, what happens is that it becomes more rewarding, producing greater connectedness with the high-level good-stuff in other fields, because of the prefiltering and information percolation functions, resulting in greater and greater rewards for maintaining a hyper-extended awareness of the network feeds.

    And the task can’t be effectively farmed, because no two people have identical information aesthetics. Nobody knows that I have a puzzle that requires… XYZ to fit the pieces together – and if I could express XYZ, I’d already have XYZ, and there would be no issue.

    At some level, there’s no substitute for reading the stream yourself, and that gets to be overloading. A task that plausibly can’t be collectivized, and probably can’t be mechanized without implying a Strong-AI system.

    That, to me, implies that this kind of feed-monitoring, world-modelling function will become a profession. It probably won’t be called Blogger, but I think it’s clear that far-sighted organizations would have people in the Crow’s Nest, looking all over the world, looking at the future, modeling.


    Vinay Gupta is a consultant on disaster relief and risk management.


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