Click Here To purchase Information Bombardment: Rising Above the Digital Onslaught

Author: Nick Bontis

Publisher: Institute for Intellectual Capital Research

ISBN: 978-0-9867945-0-6

In the mid 1980s, I was living in a small third-floor walk-up apartment in Cincinnati, Ohio, working as a reporter for a weekly newspaper. My roach-infested cupboards boasted lots of macaroni and cheese, and other cost-saving menu options (I was poor, you see.) But one extravagance I allowed myself – insisted upon – was cable television. I justified it by saying I needed to keep up with the news, but mostly I just watched rebroadcasts of St. Elmo’s Fire and other “Brat Pack” movies.

I remember the cable guy wiring my 13-inch color set, and then handing me a small plastic box, about the size of a pot pie, with a bunch of colored buttons and a set of wires that ran to the back of the set.

What’s this?” I asked.

For changing channels,” he said.

I looked it over.

Cool,” I said.

Little did I realize the significance of that moment when I first caressed a primitive remote (called a “converter” back then) until I started reading Information Bombardment: Rising Above the Digital Onslaught, by Nick Bontis. He discusses the development and use of those early converters as a seminal moment in the information age, a transitional step we two took together, untold miles apart: “It may seem like a small change, but the ability to dictate what I wanted to watch by pressing a button was a tipping point. This small technological advancement allowed us to express our thirst for knowledge and make choices to satisfy out thirst.”

How about that? I was cutting edge and I didn’t even know it.

Bontis’ book will, I suspect, occasion lots of similar head-nodding, as readers fondly recall the screech of modems from their TRS 80s and the first time they saw their own distorted, prism-tinged reflection in something called a “compact disc.” Bontis, who has spent the last decade carving out a niche as a successful author/lecturer/consultant in the field of dissecting and managing our information overload, has done his homework. His book is stuffed with dire data that testify to the fact that we’ve become a nation tethered to our electronica. As he notes, “In an effort to appease our own biggest fear (the fear of being ignorant and left out) we walk around like huge sponges, hoping to absorb every little piece of information we can.”

But Bontis is so effective at painting a picture of our imprisonment by this impulse to know more things, and to know them faster, that his book actually suffers as a result. By page 20, he’s made his point: we’re drowning in information. Got it. By page 50, more data, same conclusion. By page 100, 200, even 300, he’s still piling on the statistics, arguing that everything from the diagnoses of ADHD to absentee fathers can be attributed, in large measures, to the deluge of information. In a book about how besieged we are by information, I was feeling rather besieged myself. I kept waiting for his prescription, his solution to our zombie-like obedience to our laptops and Smart phones (a solution he keeps teasing throughout the book).

When he finally gets around to delivering the promise of his subtitle, it is pretty anticlimactic. How to deal with this brave new world that assaults us at every turn, severing family relationships and fomenting sleep-deprivation and anxiety? Prioritize your e-mail and use “auto foldering” programs. How can organizations and corporations deal with this 21st century threat to their very viability? Savvy managers should form a “knowledge exchange” where employees can share information outside the usual competitive sphere, and boards of directors should create a CKO (chief knowledge officer) to oversee the vast flow of information in and out of a corporation.

These ideas, and the handful of others that Bontis provides, are valuable, no doubt. But as I flipped through the last few brief chapters in which these ideas are set forth, I couldn’t help feeling that a well-organized, bulleted-blog-post could have served the same function. I don’t imagine that most of Bontis’ readers will be surprised to discover that “we’re in danger of drowning” in information, and I wonder just who will be motivated to hang in there for 304 pages of anecdotal evidence that makes that case.

But maybe that’s just me. I might not be Bontis’ ideal reader. Shortly after the cable guy left, my converter went on the fritz, and for the next several months, when I wanted to change the station, I had to actually get up and walk to the TV. It got so bad that I eventually just shut the TV off and did something radical. I started reading every day. And though I learned a lot in Bontis’ book about how computers have come to dominate our lives, I didn’t find a single line suggesting that the best way to deal with information overload is to turn off your computer and cell phone and simply open a book.

Click Here To purchase Information Bombardment: Rising Above the Digital Onslaught