British Telecom research lab director Peter Cochrane sees a
vision of tomorrow's electronic university in which inefficient
campuses and libraries will be replaced by friendly electronic
networks. The new scheme, he told London's Independent newspaper,
will help people cope with information overload that currently
forces them to spend 80 percent of their time finding
information; far too little time is left for decision-making.
Cochrane belongs to a growing gang of technofreaks (MIT Media
Lab boss Nicholas Negreponte is head man, perhaps) who want to
help us tailor data to our narrow-band needs. What rubbish!
As an hour-a-day online "user" (addict?), I know the value of
the information highway. And its limitations.
Consider Mussie Shore, a senior software designer at Lotus
Development Corp. and one of the best "graphical user-interface
designers," according to Industry Week. While working on a spread
sheet design, Shore got to musing about a place mat at a
Portsmouth, N.H., diner.
"It had a sort of coordinate system along the top and along
the side," he recalled, "with an aerial view of Portsmouth and
little numbers on some of these sketches of buildings and little
circles with callouts that made a magnified version of the church
or the historical general store that was pulled out to the side.
I saw that this dinky place mat was communicating way more
information about the lay of the land than I've ever been able to
communicate with these high-powered computers."
Shore's vignette reveals the wellspring of almost all
creativity _ unlocking dilemmas through insights gained in
I know it works for me. Ideas about corporate renewal come
from spring barn cleaning in Vermont. Routine trips to the
grocery store provide more "data" on customer service than
reading the trade journals. Watching kids at play offers
inspirations about self-organization.
And on it goes. Hall of Fame football coach Bill Walsh got his
idea for ball-control passing from watching basketball games. He
observed that teams given the ball out of bounds complete 90
percent of their in-bounds passes; why not the same in football?
Walsh mused. Soon even his journeymen quarterbacks (let alone Joe
Montana) were completing an unprecedented two-thirds of their
But what about facts _ cold, hard statistics? Guess what?
There ain't any.
Been following the health care debate? The principal players
can't even agree on how many of us are uninsured _ estimates vary
by millions. …