Are You Gonna Eat That?

Unsurprisingly, most people today are overwhelmed by the sheer volume of information available at their fingertips. Millions of Google results, thousands of database hits…how do you take it all in? How do you decide which information to consume and which to pass over?

Social Media Information Overload

Image by Mark Smiciklas. CC license here.

Granted, this is a topic on which much has been written and many debates have surfaced. You have probably heard terms such as “information overload”  and “disintermediation”  in relation to this conundrum.

J.P. Rangaswami—technologist, innovator, economist, among other things—has put forth one thought-provoking question about information use: What would happen differently in your life if you saw information the way you saw food?

This brilliantly simple metaphor can serve as a wonderful guide as we navigate the seemingly infinite information available around us. As Rangaswami explains, “it’s fundamentally a consumption issue”.
In other words, maybe it’s healthiest to have a balanced information diet. Can you survive off of one food source for your entire life?

Oven roasted french fries

Image by Keith McDuffee. CC license here.

Perhaps…but you can more likely thrive off of a healthy variety of sources.

Mosaic Fruit and Veg

Image by Aunti P. CC license here.

Of course, the metaphor goes past consumption to consider the ways information is presented and by whom. How is your information packaged and labeled—an opinion blog, a ‘fair and balanced’ news outlet, Buzzfeed? Who cultivates it and prepares it—who writes the blog, who owns the news outlet, what motivates the writers? Does it contain a percentage of the truth?

To sum it all up, here is J.P. Rangaswami explaining his analogy in the last four minutes of a TED talk. You can view the whole thing here :


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