Reflecting the increasing attention paid to information security by many Americans, Pew Research recently conducted a large study, “Net Threats”, to identify important trends among technology experts’ opinions and predictions regarding the future of digital security. The study targeted thousands of Internet experts to measure their thoughts and concerns about the future of the Internet. Researchers at Pew identified four major themes among responses, and this post will discuss the fourth theme – Efforts to fix the TMI (too much information) problem might over-compensate and actually thwart content sharing.
While headlines evidence the previous three trends named by the Pew study, this final theme has not yet grabbed the media’s attention in a dramatic way. Respondent Joel Halpern, an engineer at Ericsson, provides a concise and accessible summary of the problem in the report. “The biggest challenge is likely to be the problem of finding interesting and meaningful content when you want it. While this is particularly important when you are looking for scientific or medical information, it is equally applicable when looking for restaurants, music, or other things that are matters of taste. While big-data analysis has the promise of helping this, there are many limitations and risks (including mismatched incentives) with those tools.” In other words, the overwhelming amount of information to which we are constantly exposed will hinder our ability to filter the good from the bad.
So great will this glut of information be that Jonathan Grudin, a researcher with Microsoft, predicts that an industry of “personal information trainers” will emerge to assist individuals with finding and harnessing useful information.
The Pew study does not say that the majority of respondents felt that the surplus of information will have more drawbacks than benefits – the report simply recognizes the challenges facing algorithm-based filtering systems. Other respondents suggested that analytics will improve and produce a good balance between finding what you want and being exposed to new ideas and materials.