What do primordial bacteria, medieval alchemists, and the World Wide Web have to do with each other? This fascinating exploration of how information systems emerge takes readers on a provocative journey through the history of the information age.
Today's "information explosion" may seem like an acutely modern phenomenon, but we are not the first generationâ€"nor even the first speciesâ€"to wrestle with the problem of information overload. Long before the advent of computers, human beings were collecting, storing, and organizing information: from Ice Age taxonomies to Sumerian archives, Greek libraries to Dark Age monasteries.
Today, we stand at a precipice, as our old systems struggle to cope with what designer Richard Saul Wurman called a "tsunami of data." With some historical perspective, however, we can begin to understand our predicament not just as the result of technological change, but as the latest chapter in an ancient story that we are only beginning to understand.
Spanning disciplines from evolutionary theory and cultural anthropology to the history of books, libraries, and computer science, writer and information architect Alex Wright weaves an intriguing narrative that connects such seemingly far-flung topics as insect colonies, Stone Age jewelry, medieval monasteries, Renaissance encyclopedias, early computer networks, and the World Wide Web. Finally, he pulls these threads together to reach a surprising conclusion, suggesting that the future of the information age may lie deep in our cultural past.
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A STOP ON THE INFORMATION HIGHWAY . . . What does the library of the future look like? The notion that libraries can be reduced to a set of mechanical transactions strikes me as a gross oversimplification of what libraries really do. Historically, libraries have always been more than just book warehouses; they have served an important social function as well. While the technologies of reading may change, I expect physical libraries will be around for a long time to come.
How do you avoid information overload? Despite an ever-growing volume of data, human beings seem remarkably adept at dealing with seemingly overwhelming quantities of information. I think that's because we have a long evolutionary track record of coping with data sets too large for any lone organism to handle. Information overload seems to be almost as old as life itself.About the Author:
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