Future of Infomation Processing

Today’s Information Overload – The Future of Data Management

by Tony B. Lumpkin III on January 22, 2013

What Is the Future of Information Processing?

Our own technological break-throughs during this Information Age have created a boon in productivity and data sharing. Nevertheless, they have also created a challenge:  Today’s rabid growth in devices and options for exchanging data have reached a level in which human beings do not have the tools to accurately and effectively process it.

9/11, BP oil disaster, financial failures – all avoidable?

As an IT consultant, I encounter various types of organizations with countless challenges with their information systems.  Unfortunately, one thing – and one thing only – remains constant among these companies that I alone cannot solve:  information overload.

The problem surpasses our everyday overload of email, instant messages, and the ever-growing number of web 2.0 platforms.  Take note of several catastrophes in recent years:  The 9/11 terrorist attacks, the failure of large financial institutions, and, more recently, the BP oil disaster in the Gulf of Mexico.  These tragedies, regrettably, were all avoidable but for one common problem:  The inability to process information effectively.  That’s right; the information to prevent each of these events was readily available within someone’s IT systems.  Whether that is the systems of the US intelligence community, federal regulators, auditors, or sensor data within an oil company’s massive systems, the information was available.  Yet, in a way it wasn’t.  The problem:  so much data that humans just cannot effectively process and turn it into adequate knowledge to make a decision or take some other action.  Well, we will just get more effective at processing data, right?

“We cannot solve problems by using the same thinking we used when we created them.”

– Albert Einstein

We continue to come up with a variety of strategies for coping with all of this information.  SPAM filters for our email, time management techniques, email filtering and auto responding, more efficient analysis of our data systems, etc.  My IT consultants are constantly asked their opinions on effectively handling the excess information.  There is even now an “Information Overload Day” during which people are encouraged not to send as many email messages.  The fact is, as Einstein foresaw, we cannot solve the problem of information overload employing the same technology that created the problem in the first place.  Sure, we can take steps to help manage all of the information – and it helps the problem – but, it doesn’t cure it.

And So Is There a Solution?

If we, as humans, are unable to process information into knowledge fast enough, then what can we do?  I believe there is only one feasible answer – get devices to accomplish it for us.  I’m not referring to substantial computer system packed with complex algorithms coded in by a multitude of software engineers in an attempt  to account for every conceivable possibility.  I’m making reference to true artificial intelligence.  In the circle of IT consultants that I associate, we all quietly snicker quietly as we see applications like Apple’s Siri described as artificially intelligent.  I would debate that Siri is nothing greater than a voice recognition application hard coded to recognize certain words and phrases – certainly not “intelligent” in my mind.

Until the day when we possess some sort of system that will provide some sort of real cognitive powers, in my view we will not have this problem behind us.  Which obviously begs the question, what problems will that technology create that we will have to solve?

{ 9 comments… read them below or add one }

Todd Meisner January 22, 2013 at 6:13 pm

I think it’s feasbible. Just look at IBM’s Watson and what it accomplished in a relatively short time period in which they developed it. Sure, it had some idiotic responses, but overall it did pretty well. I do think it had a distict advantage by getting the question in the form of a text message as soon as the host began to read it. In essence, it got to “hear” the question instantaneously and start working on an answer while the other contestants had to wait to hear it read to them.

All in all, it was still pretty impressive though!

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IT Man January 23, 2013 at 10:27 pm

Good article. As for Watson, I think it’s all fluff though. I mean, c’mon – all it did was a lookup based on words – that were sent to it via text message – not even voice recognition. Not to impressive in my book.

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GRAArons January 24, 2013 at 2:58 am

What about Doug Lenat’s Cyc? Last I heard they were still working on it, but that was several years ago. I saw him on the Nova documentary on Watson and saw that he was still at it. He’s the only one who has taken a bottom – up approach at developing true AI.

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Hans D. January 26, 2013 at 7:50 pm

Haven’t heard Doug Lenat’s name in a while, but found your post and had to comment. He’s been behind the scenes of AI for years and years now and, though some think he’s wasted his time, others (including me) think he’s the only one going down the right path in pursuit of “true AI.” It will be interesting to see what happens over the next couple of years for sure.

I agree about Watson being all fluff too.

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Margaret Whiten January 28, 2013 at 5:37 pm

I think a lot of people recognize the problem(s) you bring up, but I’m not sure if the solution you suggest is feasible. I’ve never seen nor heard of any artificial system that can hold a candle to what the human brain can do.

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Reba January 29, 2013 at 5:03 am

This was a great article and my son will enjoy it very much, he is going to school to get into the information field so this lets him see a brief glimpse of what he is in store for. I hope he will get as excited about this kind of thing as he does the video games that come out. Thank you for posting this information and I will pass it on.

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Debbie January 29, 2013 at 5:53 am

This sounds like the plot of a science fiction disaster movie. If this is indeed true, that many, if not all of these disasters could have been avoided with better data management, then isn’t it a presage of worse catastrophic events that can occur in the future? Are officials looking to improve how data is accessed analyzed and implemented? I sure hope someone is thinking of solutions.

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Janice January 29, 2013 at 9:13 am

It’s interesting that you selected that particular quote from Einstein because those who researched his career are aware that Einstein was able to produce those brilliant essays with the revolutionary equations that made him famous – all within the span of one year, the year they coined, “the wonderful year, by putting himself into a state which allowed him to think of things as if from another dimension. The answers lie somewhere in the universe.

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Ann January 29, 2013 at 3:07 pm

Artificial Intelligence is one of my interests because I think it will become the wave of the future. Well, INNOVISION is a annual Technical fest of our college. Every year an event called AI challenge is organized. In 2008 we organized this event under theme GPL – Geek’s Premiere League. The game was soccer with our own rules (no off-sides to promote scoring). We designed simulator code in C++ which interacts with code of participants.

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