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Information Overload

How about this fabulous graphic from Jessica Hagy (here), courtesy of http://flowingdata.com.


Now let's try to improve this situation:



And then add one more thing:



My logic:

As we collect information we quickly think we understand a thing and confusion goes to a minimum.  After we get to a certain point, additional information tends to:

(1) Create overload;
(2) Start to accumulate contradictions;
(3) Suffer from loss of memory of information obtained early on.

This situation can be improved by keeping records and organizing the information.  This results in a lessening of the rate at which confusion drops due to the distraction of the organization process.  Because all the information remains more visible through organization, we never reach the low level of confusion of the first graph because selective filtering does not occur.  This filtering allows the illusion of understanding by the selective use of information.  But again this process reaches a minimum point in confusion, but not as low a level.  When confusion starts to turn up due to information overload, organization keeps it from rising as quickly.

If we add analysis to the organized data, the drop in confusion is even slower as early on the data is too meager to give confidence to analytical results.  The minimum in confusion comes later in this case, and at a higher level, because analysis tends to highlight what is not known quite effectively.  As time and amount of information increase, more things become defined but never to the extent that they can completely overcome the increase in the unknowns discovered.

A summary of what I am saying would be that the more we know, in general, the more we discover we don't know.  Organization and analysis can reduce the confusion resulting from information overload, but will add to the identification of what is not known.  Confusion with increasing information may go through a minimum, but the infinity of the unknown will never allow confusion to go below some preliminary low level and will force it to go higher.

The one exception comes with what we call breakthroughs.  When Newton formulates the laws of motion or Schrodinger defines the wave equation or Crick and Watson discover the DNA helix, discontinuities occur where confusion drops spectacularly.  But that drop is temporary and all the new frontiers opened up quickly expand the unknown.  Confusion returns.