Sunday, March 14, 2010

Instant gratification - Part I

Watching All the President's Men, I was amazed by one scene: when Carl Bernstein (Dustin Hoffman) found the name Kenneth H. Dahlberg in the Miami D.A.'s office, Bob Woodward (Robert Redford) started searching for the person in phone books. What is he doing? Oh I forgot, Google didn't exist in 1972, not even the term "internet."

When you hear an unfamiliar name or a strange term nowadays, the first impulse would be - Google it. So much information is available, and more importantly, searchable on the internet that most likely you will find what you need instantly. As of a few minutes ago, Google spend 0.26 second to find about 28,500 results for "Kenneth H. Dahlberg." No surprise, the first hit was an article on Wikipedia. I remember Rob Matthews once printed only the "featured articles" part of Wikipedia and what he got was a ridiculous-looking 5,000-page book.

The Information Age has turned the world into one big entangled web of digital data that is getting even denser every day. Everybody could be an expert of something with the help of the World Wide Web. The real skill now is to locate valuable information from various sources and piece it together. A new generation of intellectuals emerged. They don't need to know everything. Instead, they just need to know about things. Like ancient cartographers conquering the oceans, these neo-intellectuals surf in the cloud, facing the challenge of the storming explosion of information. Rather than learning the knowledge itself, they mentally build up a map of the largest library in the history of human civilization. When needed, they can locate the core information and have the experience and insight to bring in all the things related to it - images, graphs, events, researches, opinions, etc. I call this new comprehensiveness the art of "sort and connect."

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