Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Information Age

At Oxford University an exam is given every year which might result in a scholarship for three people, The test is described as the toughest test in the world.

Applicants take four examinations of three hours each, and in the two general subject tests must answer three questions from a list. Below is part of the list from the 2005 - 2010 exams:

What is war good for?
From where does a sense of community come?
Are there too many accountants and auditors? Is there anything to be said for astrology?
Why should I tolerate?
Is exile always a misfortune?
If there are millions of other planets capable of supporting advanced life-forms, why haven’t we seen or heard from them?
Is dark energy more interesting than dark matter? What do extremes in dress and personal adornment signify?
Do historical novels harm historical study?
Has there ever been a period that was not an information age?

Out of this partial list of what appear to be simple questions, the last one grabbed my attention.

The present time is often called the "information age." But, is it really information or just data?

One example might be if you back 150 years to a small village which is supplied with milk from one farm. The farm would never double the size of its herd because, they truly have information - full and complete.

Now when a farm decides to double the herd size, just exactly how much information is actually available? Does the farm have any understanding relative to the market in forming a decision?

Take the "Cold Storage" data, published by USDA. Is that simply data or information? You can pile the data quite high and not have real information. Or take the numbers from CME - just data.

We could have more information, real information, but, that would take leadership. As it is, the farm which is doubling is encouraged to expand by those with greater information because, the net result is a lower farm milk price.

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