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Long, thoughtful analyses and small, unpopular data sets are often overwhelmed in such a system. Similar processes are at work in television; the metaphors of the TV world are rapidly appearing in the network world.

One can successfully argue that Earth science is currently limited by the lack of data (or at least the correct data), but an equally serious problem is the inability to synthesize large, complex data sets. This is a problem without a technological solution. While information systems can help, they will not overcome this hurdle. Delivering more data at a faster rate to the scientist will obscure this fundamental problem. Indeed, technology may give the appearance of solving the problem when in reality it exacerbates it. As stated by Jacob Bronowski,

This is the paradox of imagination in science, that it has for its aim theimpoverishment ofimagination. By that outrageous phrase, I mean that the highest flight ofscientific imagination is toweed out the proliferation of new ideas. In science, the grand view is amiserly view, and a rich modelof the universe is one which is as poor as possible in hypotheses.

Networks are useful. But as scientists, we must be aware of the fundamental changes that networks bring to the scientific process. If our students rely only on networks to locate data as opposed to making real-world observations, if they cannot use a library to search for historical information, if they are not accountable for information that appears on the network, if they cannot form reasoned, logical arguments, then we have done them a great disservice.

The balance between market forces with their emphasis on short-term returns for individuals and infrastructure forces with their emphasis on long-term returns for the common good must be maintained. There is a role for both the private sector and the public sector in this balance. At present, the balance appears to be tilted toward the short term, and somehow we must restore a dynamic equilibrium.


[1] Roszak, Theodore. 1994. The Cult of Information: A Neo-Luddite Treatise on High-Tech, Artificial Intelligence, and the True Art of Thinking. University of California Press.

[2] Miller, Mark Crispin. 1988. Boxed In: The Culture of TV. Northwestern University Press.

[3] U.S. Government Accounting Office. 1995. "Earth Observing System: Concentration on Near-term EOSDIS Development May Jeopardize Long-term Success," Testimony before the House Subcommittee on Space and Aeronautics, March 16.

[4] Negroponte, Nicholas. 1995. "000 000 111—Double Agents," Wired, March.

[5] Hardin, Garrett. 1968. "The Tragedy of the Commons," Science 162:1243–1248.

[6] Postman, Neil. 1992. Technopoly: The Surrender of Culture to Technology. Knopf, New York.

[7] Stoll, Clifford. 1995. Silicon Snake Oil: Second Thoughts on the Information Superhighway. Doubleday, New York.

[8] Postman, Technopoly, 1992.

[9] Physics Today. 1995. "Roundtable: Whither Now Our Research Universities?" March, pp. 42–52.

[10] Roszak, The Cult of Information, 1994.

[11] Postman, Technopoly, 1992.

[12] Miller, Boxed In, 1988.

[13] Stross, Randall. 1993. Steve Jobs and the NeXT Big Thing. Atheneum, New York.

[14] Postman, Technopoly, 1992.

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