A few years back, before the financial downturn, people in the UK would say ‘there’s more money around’ to account for the fact that people seemed to be consuming and acquiring goods more than ever before. You could have used the same expression: ‘there’s more money around’, about the Weimar Republic, in the 1920s & 30, but it would have meant something entirely different
|Stamps from the Weimar Republic, showing inflation (from left to right: 1923, 1926 & 1928)|
With money you can make some meaningful comparisons - I was once told that the price of a Mars Bar is a good benchmark - but how can you do that for information?
I've been pondering this for a while (and had a paper on the topic rejected!). Here's some evidence for information inflation.
School reports, when I was a child, consisted of one or two hand-written sentences on each subject. The reports that my children have brought home are much more substantial: a printed booklet with paragraphs of, typically, between 50 and 200 words on each subject. At face value, I’m getting a lot more information about my children than my parents got about me.
School reports today are frequently put together with the aid of specialised software that reduces the workload on the teacher. An extreme example of this is The Report King that can be used in
John has extended his knowledge of a variety of computer programs and he can log into the network without support. He has explored a variety of features included in software for composing music and is aware that questions can be turned into search criteria when using data handling programs. He has found information relating to his topic work from given websites on the worldwide web and explains patterns that govern a computer simulation
Entering the same grade for another pupil would generate a similar but different paragraph, because the software makes use of different wording and draws on different parts of the curriculum to ensure two different pupils don’t get the same report.
In terms of the
Comparing this to the hand-written sentence of times past, it is easy to see that a written sentence is likely to contain a lot more than two bits of information. Even the most harried teacher is likely to be selecting their sentence from a lot more than four possibilities. For really effective communication, though, the face-to-face meeting at the parents evening is still, as it always was, better than the report, whether hand-crafted or computer generated.
There’s an argument that there is more information in the computer-generated report, in this case information about the National Curriculum, but it’s not about John and it’s not from the teacher.
In conclusion, just as to say 'there's more money around' due to hyperinflation is a misuse of the word 'money', so too - maybe - to say there is more information around today is a misuse of the word information.