Knowledge, and Technology
by David M. Schwartz, CEO,
ImaginOn, Inc. 2 October 1998
many predicted, one of the dominant characteristics
of the latter half of the twentieth century is the
vast quantity of data generated and recorded each
year. This deluge is caused by many factors,
including an increase in authors, new publication
channels, the growth of higher education, government
sponsored research, automated data gathering, etc.,
etc. Each year, there is more new data about
more things than anybody can process or catalog in
any one place. Of course, data is not information.
Indeed, data may conceal information, especially when
the methods of gathering the data are inappropriate
to the subjects.
qualifying, analyzing and reducing data into useful
information is now a major job in and of itself, independent
of any useful application of the formatted information.
What is now called Information Science is the rapidly
growing academic area that encompasses all the formal
aspects of turning data into information, and then
keeping track of it. Even after data has been
processed in some rational way, no substantial reduction
on the quantity of materials occurs, but, in general,
at least the quality of the material is increased.
seemingly endless pool of information is the raw material
of a new business: the knowledge industry. Books,
magazines, websites, research reports and newsletters
that provide condensed, digested summaries of information
that enable businesses and consumers to shop intelligently
for goods and services are one popular product line
of the knowledge industry. Educational and instructional
materials that assist and aid teaching and learning
are the second big product line of the knowledge industry.
Since the knowledge industry also generates new information
as it processes the old, updating and republishing
previous output is yet another component of the business.
Then there is the archiving of finished knowledge
products; in libraries or electronic storage sites.
information grows exponentially and the knowledge
industry produces more and more packaged information
goods of ever more diverse types, every human being
remains limited by the 24-hour day. This fundamental
conflict, between time available and quantity of information
to cope with, is a problem in the workplace, the home
and schools. In the workplace, the challenge is to
obtain relevant information in a compact form that
is easy to comprehend in the minimum time possible,
so that correct decisions can be made expeditiously.
When the available information is impossible to understand,
and no other simpler source is immediately available,
a quick refresher course or training session is required
prior to studying the information.
the home or leisure setting, the information required
may pertain to recreational options, but the cost/benefit
equation is similar to the business case. In
education, the information explosion is compounded
by the fact that new, original data is also created
as part of the educational research process.
Faced with this dilemma, schools have become more
specialized; reducing the quantity of information
that must be processed within a specific curriculum.
Students and teachers have adopted computer technology
to assist all aspects of academic life. These
changes in education have helped, but in the most
rapidly changing fields, such as medicine and engineering,
it is not uncommon for the materials presented in
the freshman year to be obsolete by the date of graduation.
technology has an important role to play, facilitating
solutions to all aspects of the quality and timeliness
of information, including information overload and
obsolescence. Software to address these issues
takes many forms. In the field of information
acquisition, Internet browsing software coupled with
search engine websites is the most widely used software
tool set. Within specific professions, proprietary
information search and retrieval software does much
of the work; Lexus/Nexus in law and Bloomberg in finance,
are two of many such systems.
education, numerous software applications are available
for teachers and students. Software is available
that assists teachers in creating lesson plans.
Teachers can use complete all-in-one "courseware"
applications that are themselves entire lesson sets.
Students use training software to learn everything
from typing to advanced math. Education in the
corporate setting extends from internal systems training
to business policy dissemination.
the software applications and systems mentioned above
are useful, they are far from optimal, and should
be considered "first generation" tools for solving
information glut problems. Among the deficiencies
of the first generation tools are piecemeal topical
coverage, limited depth, inconsistent and/or difficult
user interfaces, lack of interoperability, and non-periodic,
slow or nonexistent updates.
problems are so widespread and taken for granted that
in many cases they go unnoticed. For example,
most Internet users don't realize that they are using
three different, inconsistent, pieces of software
every time they search the Web: an operating system,
a browser and a search engine. Then to package
the end product of searching and downloading into
something others can use, two more software applications
are needed: a word processor and a graphics editor.
desired information should be searched, formatted
and delivered in a useable package within seconds
of a spoken request. Say to some future device,
"Report on coffee production in Brazil, 1997", and
the result will be either a printed report with graphs,
pictures and text, or a documentary-style videotape
or CD ROM. This is not as farfetched as it seems.
In fact, automated, timely, formatted information
retrieval is the subject of ImaginOn's Transformational
Database Processing and Playback (TDPP) technology.
This technology is discussed in detail in the
white paper on this website.
The tools that have been created to embody TDPP are
discussed on the CMS page
of this website. TDPP technology will enable second
generation software systems capable of performing
the example given above. Most of the hardware
and software pieces of the puzzle have already been
built, separately. Some of these components
are available from ImaginOn, some from other developers.
Voice recognition software, by IBM or Dragon Systems
can parse spoken action requests. Internet and/or
intranet database searches can be performed by ImaginOn's
WebZinger, retrieving text, pictures, graphs, audio
and video. Output formatting for video screen
or printer can be performed by WebZinger. Automated
production of the print job, CD ROM or videotape from
computer files is possible, and will likely be accomplished
before the end of 1999.
second generation software system that will be useful
to the knowledge industry is automated creation of
curriculum materials, such as courseware, lesson plans
or in-service training seminars. Where today's
"authorware" is labor intensive and has a steep learning
curve, future authorware applications based on TDPP
technology will be usable by anybody. Say, "Prepare
a four-session post-graduate seminar about Environmental
Compliance Law", and the output will be the materials
required to lead a seminar series on the topic; an
outline, slides, graphs, short history of the topic,
key issues analysis and references. WebZinger
School Edition and ImaginAuthor are early examples
of this sort of product, though they are not comprehensive
or fully automatic, yet.
this time, personal computers and the networks connecting
them have the horsepower to handle all the required
second generation software, albeit more slowly than
desired. Today, a request for a comprehensive
report on coffee production in Brazil will take hours,
not seconds. Over the next few years, as networks
and PCs get faster, and TDPP technology is developed
further, the information explosion will become something
easier to live with.