Cooling Off Under a Hydrant / Information Bubble

Cooling Off Under a Hydrant - Information Bubble

During hot summer days, it is not uncommon to see children (and sometimes adults) cooling off under the spray of a fire hydrant. The Internet is full of historic images that have captured people cooling off in the summer heat; The tradition lives.

I just watched a 10 minute TED segment titled "The Filter Bubble", presented by Eli Pariser. He argues that personalized Internet search results generated by sites like Google or Facebook do us disservice by limiting access to content. When search results are customized based on our previous search queries, or are based on sites we have already visited, we risk being stuck in a bubble where only certain information is presented while other information becomes inaccessible. This is analogous to reading books that only share the same perspective; we get only one side of the story.

The idea of an information bubble is a scary construct. It is a disguised form of censorship. By limiting or hiding alternative perspectives, it disconnects and divides people and communities. It deceptively reinforces ones interests, thoughts and beliefs. History shows that progress is a function of sharing and exchanging ideas. As exemplified in the "calculus controversy", "bubbles" hinder progress.

The Internet, while making vast amounts of information accessible, is causing an "information overload". Having to sort through too much information and misinformation, we are increasingly finding ourselves unable to make informed choices. And, by filtering information on our behalf without our knowledge, Google is not helping us solve our information overload problem.

What has any of this got to do with children playing under the spray of a fire hydrant? Not much. Sometimes I wonder whether progress really improves the human condition. It almost seems like advances in technology and science increasingly complicate and unbalance our lives...

Song of the Day: Water Of Love - Dire Straits (1978)
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