Friday, December 17, 2004

Stratified information

There needs to be an increasing number of levels of information about certain topics, especially technology areas. People want to understand things at different levels and there is tremendous value in receiving information tailored to different tiers. Unless one is in the practitioner area, the full technical detail is not relevant and the salient concepts and issues summary will be most relevant, at a variety of levels of detail. Horizontal studies, like identifying and working with similar patterns and linkages across fields is perhaps as important as the vertical levels.

The need for stratified information is an effect of having so many more areas and sub-areas, especially in science. In the days of Darwin, polymaths could really be technical experts in many if not most fields. While that may still be somewhat possible today, it is challenging and not useful for one to be an expert in one's entire field. For the practitioner, the focus is on the application and extension of the specific. For the generalist, the value is not in being a deep technical expert in multiple areas but rather to be versed in the key concepts and issues of multiple areas.

The need for stratified information is also driven by the sheer volume of information and the limited capability of the human mind to process, comprehend, retain and use this amount and complexity of information. There should be ways for humans to more effectively interact with information, for example to comprehend-on-demand.