Feelin’ Lucky?

We must remember two other caveats of the Internet as an information source. First, the Internet can’t access all information. Vast amounts are copyrighted and available only in libraries or bookstores. Some is past copyright but simply hasn’t been made available on the Internet. There’s life in the venerable library yet.

Second, keep in mind that news gathering for the Internet is the same as for all other news media. A journalist must hear of a story and either travel to the site or telephone someone for an interview, whether the story is to run in a newspaper, on TV, or at a news website. And the Internet wasn’t the first to provide coverage from the location of breaking news or provide immediate access to the story—radio and TV did this decades ago.

When the transmission of information was expensive, only the most important was passed along. As costs dropped, more information of less importance made the cut.

For the past few centuries, the most important information always had an outlet. As bandwidth opened up—first, newspapers and telegraph capacity, and then film, radio, TV, and now the Internet—increasing amounts of information of decreasing importance had an outlet.

The newest categories of information are the least important. Before blogs, there were newspaper columns. Before podcasts, there were radio programs. Someone who didn’t have a voice before the Internet, didn’t have a voice for a reason.

We have an increasing problem of information overload, but the basics of information gathering and prioritizing haven’t changed. Analysis remains vital. The core challenges of running a business are constant—customer service, a competitive and energized workforce, and great products are as important as always. And the fundamental problems that perplex society are not solved simply by more information.

The Internet is a marvelous tool that gives us access to a deluge of information, but let’s remember that it’s just one in a long line of tools.

Bob Seidensticker is an engineer who writes and speaks on the topic of technology change. A graduate of MIT, Bob has more than 25 years of experience in the computer industry. He is author of Future Hype: The Myths of Technology Change and holds 13 software patents.