Monday, March 7, 2011

Infomation Overload

A while back, FLG posted his crappy research paper in which he wrote:
Communication technology has become more powerful, but its increasing power is almost indirectly proportional to its conduciveness to contemplation

So, he read this article in Newsweek about the link between information technology and decision-making with some interest. Trouble is, this is more than a wee bit overstated:
Maybe you consulted scores of travel websites to pick a vacation spot—only to be so overwhelmed with information that you opted for a staycation. Maybe you were this close to choosing a college, when suddenly older friends swamped your inbox with all the reasons to go somewhere else—which made you completely forget why you’d chosen the other school. Maybe you had the Date From Hell after being so inundated with information on “matches” that you chose at random. If so, then you are a victim of info-paralysis.

Who seriously gets so overwhelmed looking at vacation information that they end up staying home?

Perhaps FLG is abnormally comfortable making decisions in the face of ambiguity. Once he has a few data points, he's fine moving forward and has little regret even if subsequent information reveals the decision was suboptimal. And just to be clear, FLG doesn't feel like he's rushing. He just thinks that the law of diminishing returns kicks in really quickly with information. For every decision, there really are 2-3 key metrics. Once you have a good sense of those everything else is pretty much noise.

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