Technology to Fight Technology Overload

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The people who gave the world email, the iPhone, and the text message now want to save the world from information overload. In the latest issue of the electronic engineering magazine IEEE Spectrum, Nathan Zeldes explains how technologists are trying to save people from the constant interruptions, irritations, and maddening deluge of information that’s ubiquitous in daily life. Zeldes, a former productivity guru for Intel Corp, writes that the current situation resembles the “tragedy of the commons” scenario: “Everyone would prefer that there be fewer messages, but nobody can afford to be the first to cut back on sending them.”

Companies have sent out memos and instituted policies, but that’s not always enough. Engineers have taken matters into their own hands, coming up with software that would help people prioritize their incoming messages and shield their personal time. Zeldes points to Priorities, a prototype program released by Microsoft that analyzes incoming messages to predict their importance. It also is designed to monitor the recipient’s activity, to see if that person should be interrupted. There are also programs like ClearContext Professional that is designed to help people clean up their inboxes.

Before implementing those new programs or any new technologies, Zeldes writes, “we should figure out how best to use it in the cultural context it will inhabit.” That way people won’t be plagued with more technology that’s designed to improve productivity but ends up just wasting itme.

Source: IEEE Spectrum

Image by Sammy0716, licensed under Creative Commons.

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