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Information overload: It’s elementary, my dear Watson…

Recently I happened to re-read A Study in Scarlet, the first Sherlock Holmes novel by Conan Doyle, and I found an interesting passage:

I consider that a man’s brain originally is like a little empty attic, and you have to stock it with such furniture as you choose. […] It is a mistake to think that that little room has elastic walls and can distend to any extent.  Depend upon it there comes a time when for every addition of knowledge you forget something that you knew before.  It is of the highest importance, therefore, not to have useless facts elbowing out the useful ones.

If we consider the explosion of information made available by new technologies, we realize that this excerpt is particularly relevant today, as we are literally besieged by useless information, and filtering our searches implies an increasingly unacceptable waste of time.

I hope we won’t have to wait another 119 years (A Study in Scarlet was published in 1887) to find an effective solution to the problem of information overload.


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