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"Anyone who has ever played the children's game Telephone--in which one person whispers a phrase to the next person in line, who then whispers the phrase to the next, and so on, until the last person announces aloud a phrase that invariably bears no resemblance to the original--knows what can happen when even the simplest messages are passed through intermediaries: "Have a nice day" turns into "Get out of my way." If problem-identifiers had to convey everything they were learning about the needs of their customers upward to top management through layers and layers of middle managers, while problem-solvers had to convey everything they were learning about new technologies upward through as many layers, and then both groups had to await top management's decisions about what to do--decisions which then had to travel back down through the same bureaucratic channels--the results would be, to say the least, late and irrelevant, and probably distorted."  -- Robert Reich, The Work of Nations




We are in the middle of a true revolution in media -- the change from chemical processes to electronic ones.  The amount of computational power a dollar can buy has grown a thousandfold every two decades since 1900 and that rate shows no sign of slowing down. 


"Information ecology" see all digital forms of communications, software and media as feeding a single dynamic system of sequences of ones and zeros, flowing into each other like streams and rives.  "Electronic networks are growing into a computational membrane covering vast areas of the earth....:


Ted Nelson (Xanadu project) is trying to design a super-network that would bring all published text, sound and film into every home in the world. 


Wang: 95% of business communication is paper, 5% automated.  Business stores 1.3 trillion pages of paper, enough to paper the Grand Canyon 107 times!  We add another 930 million pages/day. 


Notes on Information Anxiety by Richard Saul Wurman


information = that which reduces uncertainty


Order is no guarantee of understanding.


The key for making information understandable is getting through the noise level.


Giving yourself permission not to know everything will make you relax, which is the ideal frame of mind to receive new information.


A fact can be comprehended only within the context of an idea.  And ideas are irrevocably subjective, which makes facts just as subjective.


If we were to analyze conversation, it would be more complex than any writing, yet it is often more likely to lead to understanding.  The whole apprenticeship system of education is based on the beauty of conversation.


We don't use conversation as a model because it is so obvious and so natural that we don't see its perfection of form.  It is exactly the way you think.


We communicate in a linear way.  We think in an associative way. 


People warn of the dangers of comparing oranges to apples, when this is a perfectly reasonable comparison.


Everything has been thought of before, but the problem is to think of it again. –Goethe

ways of organizing things


Alphabet, Location, Time, Continuum, Number, or Category. A last way of organizing things can often be Randomly (in other words, by not organizing them).

Information Business


Businesses can modernize even their most mature products and services by embedding information features and functions.  --2020 Vision


The architecture of information:










computer started here












telephone started here







Within one or two decades each of us will possess the full power of the information grid, not only on our desktops at work but also in our bathrooms, cars, briefcases, and pockets.


Age of Access:

Ascendancy of the end user


Whenever possible, the information component is stripped from the tangible product and moved around the world....


Turbochargers recycle engine exhaust fumes to greatly increase performance and power. Information exhaust can be captured, processed, and recycled to improve business performance. Opportunities exist to provide turbocharged information services in all businesses and industries.  The irony is that turbocharged information service businesses often become worth more than the businesses form which the information was generated in the first place. Consider TV Guide (worth more than any network), OAG (worth about as much as U.S. Air), televised sports.

from Silicon Dreams by Robert Lucky


            The cost of most electronic storage technologies decreases by a factor of two every two to three years.  Most people in the information business find that despite this increased economy in storage, their total expenditure for memory increases continually.


            Information is leaky, that is, it runs through the narrowest cracks and floods the area below.


            Management of complexity is perhaps the most crucial problem of our time.  The computer is a tool that manages complexity, and as such, just as highways encourage more cars, the computer invites more complexity into society.


            Information is a hierarchy of organization:


                        wisdom -- distilled, integrated knowledge


                        knowledge -- info stored in our minds






            U.S. per capita paper consumption has steadily risen from 200 # in '40 to 600 # in '80.


From the Gold Bug, the frequency of letters in English:


            a o i d h n r s t u y c f g l m w b k p q x z


From The Impending Information Implosion by Edward Tenner, Harvard Nov-Dec 1991




Even the Flat Earthers have a point. Sometimes the local picture matters as much as the global one. Who takes a great-circle route to the supermarket?


There are at least four ways to judge whether we have better or worse information: cost, ease or difficulty of access, variety of sources or viewpoints and clarity. None of these has improved unambiguously over the last generation.


The toll-free 800 info services are threatened by the 900-line concept. The Wall Street Journal reports that the French government's regular (toll) tourist info number now offers only a recording that gives another 900 number at fifty cents a minute....  (Since the 70s, the price of the Journal has gone form 15 cents to 75 cents.)


The real pitfall is not to overvalue or undervalue information, or the amount of information available, but to be mesmerized and anesthetized by it.



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