Information overload

July 22, 2023 6 min

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The internet is, by far, humanity’s best invention.


A good friend of mine said that a while ago, and to this day, I don't have a clue if he was right or not. Anyway, today I will talk about some aspects of this revolutionary technology that entered everyone's lives. I'm going to split it into 3 sections: the good part, the bad part, and an idea for a solution. Clearly, my intention is not to cover every problem or every feature of it. I just want to talk a little bit.


Since it's invention around the 60s with ARPANET, the internet have changed a lot. It went from being just another tool (how weird it is to see it that way now) to being fundamental in every aspect of society. It's the common place for humanity as a whole. The connection between everyone on this majorly blue sphere floating around fast as fuck. It influences everything we do, from choosing what to have for dinner, to what job we’ll work, and even our daily mood.


Good part

For me, one of the biggest features that the internet provides is the total access to every piece of information. Literally everything. The access barrier is not there anymore. That's incredible! For example, you no longer need to take someone's word for granted about a subject or anyone to teach you. The only thing that stops you to know what you want to know now is yourself (or maybe a poor internet connection 🤣).


The doors are wide open.


A couple weeks ago I realized something strange while coding. Every time I thought about sending a message to my coworkers about stuff I needed to know about our project, I realized that it was faster to look for it on the web. I'm talking both technical questions (e.g. how does Spring Webflux works in x scenario?) and practical questions (e.g. our pipeline is deploying automatically to the development server?). Since this day, I’ve been noticing that every time I type a question in Discord, I think: “couldn't I find the answer faster myself?” and that turns out to be true in the most cases.


This blew my mind. Not needing to wait for an answer is an awesome productivity increase. We switched from the knowledge bottleneck to the typing bottleneck.


That's why being a good information searcher is better than being a good information retainer. Every fucking answer is a couple touches/clicks away. A huge part of the questions we ask everyday aren't necessary. Just go find it yourself, don't depend on others.


I think that people with the skill of learning by themselves can be so ahead of those who need a person to teach them. Being self-taught is essential these days and needs to be practiced constantly. Be curious.

Bad part

As I mentioned earlier, internet provides access to almost everything that has ever been produced. That can be a terrible thing. I often talk with some friends about the feeling of needing to learn everything there is to be learned and study every subject that is presented to me. This is frustrating as fuck. To be honest, I don't know how to deal with it yet, but I have some ideas.



The major problems are:

  • get lost in the abundance;
  • wanting to study everything;
  • knowing the basics about lots of subjects, but don't going deeper in any of them.

Solution

Abdul sent me a link to a website called 37 signals, where some founders created a list of interesting thoughts they think are good values for companies to adopt. One of them - most precisely the 29th - is called JOMO (Joy Of Missing Out) not FOMO (Fear Of Missing Out). It basically describes how you should feel good about missing stuff you don’t need to hear.


The challenge is: you want to hear everything that matters for you and nothing else.


The hard part is specifically don't hearing nothing else. The internet is noisy. Most people just follow everybody they want to hear about and absorb all the noise that comes along. The problem is this noise affects you in many ways. Maybe not consciously, but seeing content on the internet, even if you don't interact with it, will certainly cause reactions on your brain.


For the first problem, I believe that developing an information system, where you can, in general terms, filter what you hear so that you only hear what matters from who you trust in the subject is the solution to the abundance problem. That's basically saying that you will only read/watch content from a list of predetermined people and the key point is: only on the area you know that creator master.


For example, let's say you like Damodaran's videos about DCF. If he posts a blogpost about health advice, you won't take it seriously or won't even read it.


Of course, the noise will never disappear completely and that's good, because you can still find some interesting people to follow, but it will decrease considerably.


That's a pretty hard approach and I don't know if it's the better option, if you have a better idea, please share it with me!


For the other two, a friend of mine uses a study system that I think can help with that.


He created a GitHub repo where issues represent subjects he want to learn more about. Inside these issues, he adds comments with the materials (blogposts, videos, papers…) he will need and as he studies these materials, he adds comments with what he learned and his thoughts. This is good because it will create a “knowledge tail” where he can see what his learning process and get back to whatever he needs.


I will try this soon, but I believe it's a good idea…


Knowing what to ignore and being ok with just not knowing everything that’s going on around the world is a valuable skill in today's world. Everything is just so fast. You can try to capture it all, but there's gonna be some point in the future where you’ll be exhausted. Storing just what matters, having good sources and using the tools we have nowadays creates an unstoppable combo.