Too Much Information

I saw this story this morning, that Sandia Labs has come up with a smart bullet. That is a pretty cool thing, for sure. But way down at the end of the story there’s this quote:

“Where we’re going is to a world where the individual soldier, Marine, sailor or airman lives in a bath of knowledge. The world would be surreal in the original sense of super real. When you look at something, you see what you need to see when you need to see it,” Firestone said. “They will have the ability to make decisions more accurately and that will have a significant impact.”

This reminds me of a passage in Starship Troopers where Heinlein is describing how the powered armor works:

If you load a mud foot down with a lot of gadgets that he has to watch, somebody a lot more simply equipped — say with a stone ax — will sneak up and bash his head in while he is trying to read a vernier.

I’ve just finished reading 23 Things They Don’t Tell You About Capitalism by Ha-Joon Chang and one of the points he makes about the global financial crisis of 2008 is that the problem was not that people didn’t have enough information but rather that people were unable to understand all the information they had already. Knowledge is power, when we compare having it to not having it, but there comes a moment in time when most of the knowledge available is irrelevant and one needs to act on the one or two facts that are pertinent right now. It is certainly true that part of good user interface design is figuring out what information to reveal and what information not to reveal. Too much information at once makes it hard to make a decision.

Published by pirateguillermo

I play the bagpipes. I program computers. I support my family in their various endeavors, and I enjoy my wonderful life.

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