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“We should imitate bees, and we should keep in separate compartments whatever we have collected from our diverse reading, for things conserved separately keep better. Then, diligently applying all the resources of our native talent, we should mingle all the various nectars we have tasted, and then turn them into a single sweet substance, in such a way that, even if it is apparent where it originated, it appears quite different from what it was in its original state.”

Via Nick Carr

Do meu ídolo Nick Carr.

“It’s not information overload. It’s filter failure.” That was the main theme of a thoughtful and influential talk that Clay Shirky gave at a technology conference back in 2008. It’s an idea that’s easy to like both because it feels intuitively correct and because it’s reassuring: better filters will help reduce information overload, and better filters are things we can actually build. Information overload isn’t an inevitable side effect of information abundance. It’s a problem that has a solution. So let’s roll up our sleeves and start coding.

There was one thing that bugged me, though, about Shirky’s idea, and it was this paradox: The quality and speed of our information filters have been improving steadily for a few centuries, and have been improving extraordinarily quickly for the last two decades, and yet our sense of being overloaded with information is stronger than ever. If, as Shirky argues, improved filters will reduce overload, then why haven’t they done so up until now? Why don’t we feel that information overload is subsiding as a problem rather than getting worse? The reason, I’ve come to believe, is that Shirky’s formulation gets it precisely backwards. Better filters don’t mitigate information overload; they intensify it. It would be more accurate to say: “It’s not information overload. It’s filter success.”

But let me back up a little, because it’s actually more complicated than that. One of the traps we fall into when we talk about information overload is that we’re usually talking about two very different things as if they were one thing. Information overload actually takes two forms, which I’ll call situational overload and ambient overload, and they need to be treated separately.

Situational overload is the needle-in-the-haystack problem: You need a particular piece of information – in order to answer a question of one sort or another – and that piece of information is buried in a bunch of other pieces of information. The challenge is to pinpoint the required information, to extract the needle from the haystack, and to do it as quickly as possible. Filters have always been pretty effective at solving the problem of situational overload. The introduction of indexes and concordances – made possible by the earlier invention of alphabetization – helped solve the problem with books. Card catalogues and the Dewey decimal system helped solve the problem with libraries. Train and boat schedules helped solve the problem with transport. The Reader’s Guide to Periodicals helped solve the problem with magazines. And search engines and other computerized navigational and organizational tools have helped solve the problem with online databases.

Whenever a new information medium comes along, we tend to quickly develop good filtering tools that enable us to sort and search the contents of the medium. That’s as true today as it’s ever been. In general, I think you could make a strong case that, even though the amount of information available to us has exploded in recent years, the problem of situational overload has continued to abate. Yes, there are still frustrating moments when our filters give us the hay instead of the needle, but for most questions most of the time, search engines and other digital filters, or software-based, human-powered filters like email or Twitter, are able to serve up good answers in an eyeblink or two.

Situational overload is not the problem. When we complain about information overload, what we’re usually complaining about is ambient overload. This is an altogether different beast. Ambient overload doesn’t involve needles in haystacks. It involves haystack-sized piles of needles. We experience ambient overload when we’re surrounded by so much information that is of immediate interest to us that we feel overwhelmed by the neverending pressure of trying to keep up with it all. We keep clicking links, keep hitting the refresh key, keep opening new tabs, keep checking email in-boxes and RSS feeds, keep scanning Amazon and Netflix recommendations – and yet the pile of interesting information never shrinks.

The cause of situational overload is too much noise. The cause of ambient overload is too much signal.

Do inigualável Nick Carr.

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Mais um post roubado do meu ídolo Nick Carr. Dessa vez, Marshall Mcluhan, em 1968, espantando seus contemporâneos.

Partes 2 e 3.

Aqui tem um bom texto sobre Mcluhan e este debate. Pra encerrar, uma frase foda sobre a escrita do McLuhan:

His books read like accounts of acid trips written by a bureaucrat.

O título do post é baseado em uma observação do fodástico Nick Carr sobre um texto de Justin E. H. Smith

If then there is a certain respect in which it makes sense to say that the Internet does not change everything, it is that human social reality was always virtual anyway. I do not mean this in some obfuscating Baudrillardian sense, but rather as a corollary to a thoroughgoing naturalism: human institutions only exist because they appear to humans to exist; nature is entirely indifferent to them. And tools and vehicles only are what they are because people make the uses of them that they do.

Consider the institution of friendship. Every time I hear someone say that Facebook ‘friendship’ should be understood in scare quotes, or that Facebook interaction is not real social interaction, I feel like asking in reply: What makes you think real-world friendships are real? Have you not often felt some sort of amical rapport with a person with whom you interact face-to-face, only to find that in the long run it comes to nothing? How exactly was that fleeting sensation any more real than the discovery and exploration of shared interests and sensibilities with a ‘friend’ one knows only through the mediation of a social-networking site? …

One would do better to trace [the Net] back far further, to holy scripture, to runes and oracle bones, to the discovery of the possibility of reproducing the world through manipulation of signs.


We knew the revolution wouldn’t be televised, but many of us really hoped it might be on the Internet. Now we know these hopes were false. There was no Internet Revolution and there will be no Internet Revolution. We will stumble on in more or less exactly the way we did before massive computer networks infiltrated our daily lives …

Before the Web we were already used to sitting in front of electronic boxes for hour upon hour. The boxes have now changed, but they are still boxes. Of course the things we do on the Internet are different from those we did (and do) in front of the TV. But it’s important to remember that they are only different; they are not new. Think for a moment about what you do on the Internet. Not what you could do, but what you actually do. You email people you know. In an effort to broaden your horizons, you could send email to strangers in, say, China, but you don’t. You read the news. You could read newspapers from distant lands so as to broaden your horizons, but you usually don’t. You watch videos. There are a lot of high-minded educational videos available, but you probably prefer the ones featuring, say, snoring cats. You buy things. Every store in the world has a website, so you could buy all manner of exotic goods. As a rule, however, you buy the things you have always bought from the people who have always sold them. You play games. There are many kinds of games on the Internet, but those we seem to like best all fall into two categories: the ones where we can kill things and the ones where we can cast spells. You look things up. The Web is like a bottomless well of information. You can find the answer to almost any question if you’re willing to look. But you generally don’t like to look, so you get your answers from Wikipedia. Last, you do things you know you shouldn’t. The Internet is great for indulging bad habits. It offers endless opportunities to steal electronic goods, look at dirty pictures, and lose your money playing poker. Moreover, it’s anonymous. On the Web, you can get what you want and be pretty sure you won’t get caught getting it. That’s terrifically useful.

But what exactly is new here? Not very much. Email is still mail. Online newspapers are still newspapers. YouTube videos are still videos. Virtual stores are still stores. MMORPGs are still variations on D&D. A user-built encyclopedia is still a reference book. Stealing mp3s is still theft. Cyber-porn is still porn. Internet poker is still gambling. In terms of content, the Internet gives us almost nothing that the much maligned “traditional media” did not. It’s not much of an exaggeration to say that the Internet is a post office, newsstand, video store, shopping mall, game arcade, reference room, record outlet, adult book shop and casino rolled into one. Let’s be honest: that’s amazing. But it’s amazing in the same way a dishwasher is amazing—it enables you to do something you have always done a little easier than before.

Esse texto é de Marshall Poe, tirado de um puta post do Nick Carr, que embora não concorde com a conclusão do título, também compartilha dessa visão crítica sobre a internet. De quebra, ainda encontrei isso aqui em um dos comentários lá no site do Nick Carr:

This is an old debate, new vs.old.Revolutionary vs.evolutionary. I tend to agree with Poe’s point up to one, important, degree: the net has changed our lives drastically not because of most of the substance (he is right on most “substance” points) but because of the change of the nature of our access to this “substance” i.e. what I call the Einstein formula E=mc2.

Indeed the energy (E) found on the web, whatever the substance, is a new beast because the masses (m) have never been so big, millions at a time; the speed (c as in celerity) has never been so fast, everything within a fraction of second; the transparency (c as in clarity), everything so visible to so many that we are deeply troubled (in all senses of that word).

January 17, 2010: “If you have something that you don’t want anyone to know, maybe you shouldn’t be doing it in the first place.” -Eric Schmidt

November 10, 2010: “Google CEO Eric Schmidt announced the salary hike in a memo late Tuesday, a copy of which was obtained by Fortune. The memo was also leaked to Business Insider, which broke the news. Within hours, Google notified its staff that it had terminated the leaker, several sources told CNNMoney. A Google spokesman declined to comment on the issue, or on the memo.”

Do Nick Carr


If change and adaptation have been a constant all along, whence this sudden urgency about a changing “us”? Why not see the digital revolution as just the latest wave of technology, no less a boon than steam power or electricity and hardly an occasion for a top-to-bottom reconsideration of all things human?

Change may be constant, but the gradations are hugely variable, with degree at some point shading into kind. Consider that the transformations of the human to date have all been dictated by social shifts, inventions and responses to various natural givens: modifications of circumstance, in short. We have adapted over these long millennia to the organization of agriculture, the standardization of time, the growth of cities, the harnessing of electricity, the arrival of the automobile and airplane and mass-scale birth control, to name just a few developments. But the cyber-revolution is bringing about a different magnitude of change, one that marks a massive discontinuity. Indeed, the aforementioned Pre-Digital Man has more in common with his counterpart in the agora than he will with a Digital Native of the year 2050. By this I refer not to cultural or social references but to core phenomenological understandings. I mean perceptions of the most fundamental terms of reality: the natural givens, the pre-virtual presence of fellow humans, the premises of social relationships.

Esse texto é uma citação de um puta artigo que eu encontrei no blog do fodástico Nick Carr.

Mais um texto foda da The Atlantic. Nada menos do que uma bela resposta ao clássico artigo do Nick Carr sobre o google e a nossa estupidez.

Scientists refer to the 12,000 years or so since the last ice age as the Holocene epoch. It encompasses the rise of human civilization and our co-evolution with tools and technologies that allow us to grapple with our physical environment. But if intelligence augmentation has the kind of impact I expect, we may soon have to start thinking of ourselves as living in an entirely new era. The focus of our technological evolution would be less on how we manage and adapt to our physical world, and more on how we manage and adapt to the immense amount of knowledge we’ve created. We can call it the Nöocene epoch, from Pierre Teilhard de Chardin’s concept of the Nöosphere, a collective consciousness created by the deepening interaction of human minds. As that epoch draws closer, the world is becoming a very different place.

Parte interessante sobre cigarro e café:

The rise of urbanization allowed a fraction of the populace to focus on more-cerebral tasks—a fraction that grew inexorably as more-complex economic and social practices demanded more knowledge work, and industrial technology reduced the demand for manual labor. And caffeine and nicotine, of course, are both classic cognitive-enhancement drugs, primitive though they may be.

Se o artigo do Nick se chamava Is Google Making Us Stupid?, este vem com o sugestivo título Get Smarter. Eis o por que:

The Mount Toba incident, although unprecedented in magnitude, was part of a broad pattern. For a period of 2 million years, ending with the last ice age around 10,000 B.C., the Earth experienced a series of convulsive glacial events. This rapid-fire climate change meant that humans couldn’t rely on consistent patterns to know which animals to hunt, which plants to gather, or even which predators might be waiting around the corner.

How did we cope? By getting smarter. The neuro­physi­ol­ogist William Calvin argues persuasively that modern human cognition—including sophisticated language and the capacity to plan ahead—evolved in response to the demands of this long age of turbulence. According to Calvin, the reason we survived is that our brains changed to meet the challenge: we transformed the ability to target a moving animal with a thrown rock into a capability for foresight and long-term planning. In the process, we may have developed syntax and formal structure from our simple language.

if the next several decades are as bad as some of us fear they could be, we can respond, and survive, the way our species has done time and again: by getting smarter. But this time, we don’t have to rely solely on natural evolutionary processes to boost our intelligence. We can do it ourselves.

Há um tempo atrás o Noah Brier comentou um reportagem do The Onion.

The best onion articles are the ones that make you a little uncomfortable:

“A new report published this week by researchers at Stanford University suggests that Americans spend the vast majority of each day staring at, interacting with, and deriving satisfaction from glowing rectangles.”

Lê-se no ácido The Onion:

“From the moment they wake up in the morning, to the moment they lose consciousness at night, Americans are in near-constant visual contact with bright, pulsating rectangles,” said Dr. Richard Menken, lead author of the report.

According to the report, staring blankly at luminescent rectangles is an increasingly central part of modern life. At work, special information rectangles help men and women silently complete any number of business-related tasks, while entertainment rectangles—larger and louder and often placed inside the home—allow Americans to enter a relaxing trance-like state after a long day of rectangle-gazing.

“We discovered in almost all cases that Americans find it enjoyable and rewarding to put their faces in front of glowing rectangles for hours on end,” said Howard West, a prominent sociologist on the Stanford team. “Furthermore, when citizens are not staring slack-jawed at these mesmerizing shapes, many appear to become lost, confused, and unsure of what they should be doing to occupy themselves.”

Bem, deixemos a ironia de lado. Abaixo, Nick Carr fala sobre uma pesquisa feita com estudantes. A propósito, sempre que se falar em Ternovskiy, trata-se do criador do Chatroulette, em uma entrevista ao NYT, que Nick usa como referência. No final do post volto a ele.

The world of the screen hasn’t replaced everything, but, for most of us, whether we’re of Ternovskiy’s generation or not, it has replaced a lot. According to recent media surveys, the average American spends some 8.5 hours a day peering at a screen – TV, computer, or cell phone – and that number continues to rise as smartphone use explodes. We’ve reached a point, in other words, where it’s more likely than not that we’re looking into a screen at any given moment when we’re awake.

Essa frase em negrito aí em cima é muito pancada. O Nick Carr então comenta a pesquis feita com estudantes de uma universidade. Lhes foi pedido que ficassem sem qualquer mídia eletrônica por 1 dia.

The students, the researchers reported, “use literal terms of addiction to characterize their dependence on media.” By using the a-word – “addiction” – the researchers assured themselves of a burst of media attention. (If there’s one thing we’re addicted to these days, it’s the word “addiction.”)… “According to a new study out of the University of Maryland, students are addicted to social media, and computers and smartphones deliver their drug,” began a story at the Huffington Post. Predictably, the overheated reports were quickly countered by a flood of counter-reports pointing out the silliness of confusing the language of addiction with addiction itself.

Eis alguns dos relatos dos alunos após a experiência:

“Texting and IMing my friends gives me a constant feeling of comfort. When I did not have those two luxuries, I felt quite alone and secluded from my life. Although I go to a school with thousands of students, the fact that I was not able to communicate with anyone via technology was almost unbearable.”

“Not having a cell phone created a logistical problem. It was manageable for one day, but I cannot see how life would be possible without one.”

“It is almost second nature to check my Facebook or email; it was very hard for my mind to tell my body not to go on the Internet.”

“With classes, location, and other commitments it’s hard to meet with friends and have a conversation. Instant messaging, SMS, and Facebook are all ways to make those connections with convenience, and even a heightened sense of openness. I believe that people are more honest about how they really feel through these media sources because they are not subject to nonverbal signals like in face to face communication.”

“My short attention span prevented me from accomplishing much, so I stared at the wall for a little bit. After doing some push-ups, I just decided to take a few Dramamine and go to sleep to put me out of my misery.”

“On a psychological note, my brain periodically went crazy because I found at times that I was so bored I didn’t know what to do with myself.”

Volta o Nick Carr e sua generosa e elegante escrita:

In the course of just a decade, we have become profoundly dependent on a new and increasingly pervasive technology.

Ele explica por que o termo addicetd não é o mais apropriado para a questão:

There’s nothing unusual about this. We routinely become dependent on popular, useful technologies. If people were required to live without their cars or their indoor plumbing for a day, many of them would probably resort to the language of addiction to describe their predicament. I know that, after a few hours, I’d be seriously jonesing for that toilet. What’s important is to be able to see what’s happening as we adapt to a new technology – and the problem with the addiction metaphor is that it makes it too easy to avert our eyes.

The addiction metaphor also distorts the nature of technological change by suggesting that our use of a technology stems from a purely personal choice – like the choice to smoke or to drink. An inability to control that choice becomes, in this view, simply a personal failing. But while it’s true that, in the end, we’re all responsible for how we spend our time, it’s an oversimplification to argue that we’re free “to choose” whether and how we use computers and cell phones, as if social norms, job expectations, familial responsibilities, and other external pressures had nothing to do with it. The deeper a technology is woven into the patterns of everyday life, the less choice we have about whether and how we use that technology.

Para fechar, voltemos ao criador do Chatroulette. A reportagem do NYT dizia que o amigo virtual mais próximo de Ternovskiy é um imigrante russo que mora nos EUA. Há 5 anos, todas as noites eles se falam, via MSN, até que um deles durma. Um dia eles se encontraram pessoalmente. Nick fecha seu post comentando o encontro físico dos dois amigos:

At the end of Ioffe’s piece, she reports on a recent trip that Tournovskiy made to West Virigina to meet his IM buddy and “real friend,” Kirill Gura, face to face: “‘It was a little weird, you know,’ Ternovskiy told me later. ‘We was just looking at each other without having much to say.'” At this point, there’s probably a little Ternovskiy in all of us.