What is The Place of Information?

In Terry Gilliam’s extraordinary movie, Brazil, protagonist Sam Lowry works in the government’s Information Storage department.  Later, he accepts a promotion to the much more prestigious department of Information Retrieval.

Businesspeople and citizens deal with information all the time.  We have access to more than we could ever digest.  Our critical task is to somehow identify, access, and the use the pieces that we need, without having to examine every piece that exists. One version of the “KGB Information Paradox” states that the former Soviet agency paralyzed itself by acquiring so much data that they couldn’t possibly sift through it fast enough to glean any meaning.

Over the centuries, many thinkers have commented on the role of information.  For fun and reference, here are a few:

Information is the manager’s main tool, indeed the manager’s “capital,” and it is he who must decide what information he needs and how to use it.

— Peter Drucker,  “Managing the Information Explosion” The Wall Street Journal, April 10, 1980

Where is the wisdom we have lost in knowledge?
Where is the knowledge we have lost in information?

— T. S. Eliot, Choruses from The Rock

Information is the currency of democracy.

— Thomas Jefferson (1743-1826)

Information is not Knowledge.  Knowledge is not Wisdom.  Wisdom is not Truth.  Truth is not Beauty.  Beauty is not Love.  Love is not Music.  Music is the Best.

—  Frank Zappa

The first three quotes, above, are from a compilation by the International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions.  The last is something I saw on a t-shirt at a Phish concert.

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